Low global prices to hit tea earnings
Earnings from tea will drop by 10 per cent as global prices decline amid high production costs, the Kenya Tea Development Agency said.
Agency boss Lerionka Tiampati said farmers will earn Sh52.51 per kilo of green leaf delivered to their factories, which is a drop from Sh58.61 earned last year.
“The drop is attributed to escalating costs of production and depressed prices during the last quarter of the financial year,” noted Tiampati.
Despite the drop in the rates, he said farmers cumulatively earned Sh5 billion more compared to last year due to the huge increase in the volumes of green leaf.
Farmers are expected to start receiving their pay by mid-month. According to the tea agency, the sale of tea increased from Sh78.31 billion achieved last year. “Increase in revenue was largely driven by a 21 per cent growth in green leaf production as tea growing areas received improved rainfall during the period compared to the dry conditions the previous year,” said Tiampati.
Scientists find banana varieties resistant to bacterial wilt
A team led by scientists from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) have announced a breakthrough in the search for banana varieties that are resistant to the lethal bacterial wilt disease.
This debunks the notion that all banana varieties are susceptible to the disease and opens the possibility of breeding resistant varieties.
The disease, which causes premature ripening and rotting of the fruits, wilting, and eventually death of the plant, has drastically affected the highland cooking banana production in East and Central Africa (ECA) and the food and income of millions of farmers.
Until now, the scientific world believed that all banana varieties in the region, except for a wild-seeded variety called Musa balbisiana, were susceptible to the disease, which originated from Ethiopia and has now invaded all banana growing areas in the highlands of eastern and central Africa.
The discovery by the team led by Prof Rony Swennen, head of banana breeding, Dr George Mahuku, Senior Plant Pathologist for Eastern, Southern and Central Africa; and Dr Valentine Nakato, plant pathologist, was reported in the Plant Pathology journal.
The disease is caused by Xanthomonas campestris pv. musacearum bacteria and its symptoms include yellowing and wilting of leaves, a cream to pale yellow bacteria-laden oozing when the plant is cut, shrivelling of the male bud, premature ripening, internal discouloration of fruits, and finally death of infected plants.
Transmission is fast and mainly through contaminated tools, insect vectors, and planting material. “This discovery is very important for the millions of smallholder banana farmers in the region as one of the most effective ways to control any disease is developing resistant varieties,” says Nakato, based in IITA, Uganda.
Bananas are an indispensable part of life in the region providing up to one-fifth of the total calorie consumption per capita.
Burundi, DR Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda produce annually 21 million tonnes of banana.