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Tea production for the month of May 2011 dropped by seven per cent, to stand at 32.8 million kgs, compared to 35.6 million kgs recorded during the corresponding month of 2010, the Tea Board of Kenya said Monday.

However, export volumes remained higher in May, as the total export volume stood at 34.4 million kgs, which was 11% higher compared to 31.0 million kgs recorded same period last year.

Lower production was largely attributed to depressed and poorly distributed rain fall pattern experienced in most tea-growing areas during the month of May, the board said.

West of Rift was the most affected, with its tea output dropping by 9.1% from 21.3 million kgs recorded in May 2010 to 19.3 million kgs.

Within the East of Rift, production was lower by 5.6% from 14.2 million kgs recorded in May 2010 to 13.4 million kgs.

As a consequence of poor rainfall, cumulative tea production for the period January-May stood at 149.5 million kgs, which was 18% lower, compared to 183.1 million kgs recorded during the same period of 2010.

During the month, some 25.5 million kgs of Kenyan tea was sold through Mombasa Auction and the sales for the month were 23% lower, compared to 33.1 million kgs recorded in May 2010.

The average tea auction prices was slightly higher at US$ 2.88 per kg, compared to US$ 2.53 recorded in May 2010.

Kenya tea was shipped to 37 export destinations, with Egypt as the leading export destination for Kenyan tea, having imported 6.4 million kgs of tea from the country, which accounted for 19% of Kenya’s tea export volume.

Other key export destinations for Kenyan tea were UK, which imported 5.5 million kgs, Afghanistan (4.4 million kgs), Pakistan (4.1 million kgs) and Sudan (3.7 million kgs).

The five export destinations accounted for 71% of Kenya tea export volume.

Amongst these traditional markets, Sudan recorded the highest growth in Kenya tea export at 99%, compared to the same period of last year, followed by UK (49%) and Afghanistan (10%).

“Most markets imported a relatively higher volume of tea during the month of May, compared to the same period of last year, in anticipation of less supplies due to the cessation of the “Long Rains Season,” the board said

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