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Purple tea to end farmers’ agony as black tea prices fall

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Kenya farmers would reap more from the huge demand for purple tea in the global markets, thanks to its numerous health benefits over  the common black and green varieties.
Health benefits
According to Philip Langat, a researcher at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Orgnisation’s Tea Research Institute, the TRFK 306 variety contains anthocyanin which boosts resistance to cardiovascular attacks.
At the same time, anthocyanin has high antioxidants effects against cancer. This variety has also less caffeine content as compared to black and green tea types. This makes it more attractive to the increasingly health conscious consumers.
TRFK 306 was unveiled in 2011 after a 25-year research. 
High returns
The researcher regrets that despite the tremendous commercial benefits of purple tea, there is only one processing plant in the country-Kangaita, which processes a dismal 400kg annually. Half a kilogram of purple tea leaves goes for Sh2,600 while a similar amount of the black tea retails at Sh200.
Langat added that the purple variety is resistant to various tea diseases including grey blight and requires less fertilizer, hence lower production costs. The variety can grow in any region in the country with a high altitude and average annual rainfall of at least 800mm.
Black tea market saturation hurting farmers
The global market has for three years experienced saturation of black tea forcing the commodity price to depreciate by almost 40 per cent in 2014. This global price fall continues to endanger the economic livelihood of smallholder farmers who contributes up to 70 per cent of the country’s total export. In 2014 for instance, farmers earned Sh17.61 per kilo in bonus compared to an average of 27.61 last year. The average price of a kilogram of black tea leaves is Sh14, according to the Kenya Tea Development Authority
India and China lead the world in purple tea production and a report by the World Tea News shows that most of it is consumed domestically, leaving less for the external hungry markets in Europe and Japan.  

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