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The country's tea sector has potential to grow by 66 percent from the current production of 15 000 tonnes to 25 000 tonnes, a government document has revealed.

Tea production is dominated by three manufacturers, namely Tanganda Tea Company, Eastern Highlands Plantation and Arda Katiyo Tea.

About 12 000 tonnes of locally produced tea is exported to various foreign markets.

A Manicaland Investment Profile prepared by government with the assistance of the business community indicated that there are vast tracts of underutilised land that can boost production to 25 000 tonnes.

Tea plantations are situated in Nyanga, Chipinge and Mutasa.

Players in the sector indicated that the growth target is feasible if government provided a favourable operating environment.

Tea producers have been lobbying for a ban in the import of tea, saying they have the capacity to supply the local market.

But government is of the understanding that local tea manufacturers have room to expand their export markets mainly dominated by United Kingdom, United States of America and South Africa.

Tanganda alone has 2 000 smallholder farmers utilising a small fraction of their total land.

Tanganda finance director, Henry Nemaire, said there was potential to boost production, and that their out-growers could increase their plantations by 3 000 hectares.

"There is potential to do at least 3 000 hectares of more plantation crops if each farmer puts another 1,5 hectares," said Nemaire.

Although Katiyo Tea is currently underperforming, Arda board chairperson, Basil Nyabadza, indicated that plans were under way to boost its tea line.

Nyabadza said they had talks with two investors who had expressed interest to partner Arda Katiyo Tea under a Private-Public Partnership.

He said the partnership will see 300 hectares of tea being planted, adding on to the 200 hectares currently under production.

"There is now 200 hectares of tea in excellent condition, there is still 300 hectares to do and we are inviting investors," he said.

The Eastern Highlands also has potential to boost its production.

Nemaire who is the former CZI national vice president, indicated that the inclusion of the tea sector under Statutory Instrument 64 will be influential in boosting the production of the lucrative sector.

SI 64 removed a wide range of goods from the Open General Import License. However, tea was not removed from the import license.

Source: Financial Gazette.