With a current production of 11,000 tonnes/year of made tea, Rift Valley Tea is one largest tea producers in Tanzania. The company owns and operates three tea estates with factories in Itona, Luponde and Kibena in southern Tanzania. In addition, it operates one factory dedicated specifically to smallholders in Ikanga Lupembe. These plants provide the company with the capacity to produce a wide range of teas including black CTC tea, orthodox tea, green tea and organic tea. It also produces a small amount of organic herbs.
Over the last ten years, the company has grown substantially. In the process, it has developed innovative improvements in its irrigation system, harvesting technology and factory automation.
At present, Rift Valley Tea employs over 2,500 people. Employees and the communities to which they belong are beneficiaries of a number of social responsibility programmes implemented by the company. These include housing for employees at each estate; community centres for use by the staff and their families; schools for employees’ children, including kindergarten, and primary schools up to the age of 14 years old; and free medical care.
Over the last two decades, Rift Valley Tea has developed a close working relationship with smallholder outgrowers in its neighbourhood. On the basis of an annual contract, the company provides transport, fertilizer at cost, credit, extension services and agronomic advice as well as purchases green leaf from smallholders at a negotiated price. This simple formula has resulted in exponential growth in smallholder production in Rift Valley’s operational areas. Last year, smallholder purchases reached 3,000 tons of made tea, returning nearly US$1,500,000 to the local economy and representing close to 30% of total company production.
Mufindi Tea Estates, a Rift Valley Tea company, owns and operates three tea estates in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. It also has recently established a new smallholder factory in the Lupembe area of Njombe.
Mufindi Tea Estates is one of very few commercial tea companies in East Africa which has achieved the international Fairtrade accreditation on all its plantations. The Fairtrade Labelling Organization (FLO) awards the accreditation on the basis of ethical and professional standards, good labour relations and smallholder partnerships. The accreditation awards Mufindi Tea Estates special premiums on its tea sales which are returned directly to a workers and smallholders Fairtrade Committee. The Committee, in turn, uses these funds to, for instance, build schools, enhance healthcare, drill boreholes for village use and construct community halls.
In addition, all Mufindi estates are Rain Forest Alliance certified and members of the Ethical Trading Partnership (ETP)
Located at an altitude of over 2,000 metre above sea level, Luponde Tea Estates are at the highest elevation in tea growing regions of Tanzania as well as amongst the highest in the tea world. These pristine estates have been producing organic tea for over 20 years, and are amongst the oldest organic tea plantations in the world. The estate comprises 742 hectares and processes 1,600 tonnes of tea per annum, of which 250 tonnes are organic. In addition to CTC tea both in the organic and conventional form, Luponde has diversified into a range of speciality products ranging from orthodox black and green organic tea to organic herbs including peppermint, chamomile and lemon verbena. As at most Rift Valley Tea companies, Luponde engages proactively with outgrowers in its neighbourhood. Luponde is certified by Fairtrade, Rain forest Alliance and the Ethical Tea Partnership and organically certified by Ecocert for EU, USA (NOP) and Japan (JAS).
Mufindi Tea Company, a Rift Valley Tea Company, purchased Kibena Tea Limited in 2008. The Kibena estates are located in the Njombe district at an altitude of 1,700 metres above sea leve. The 730 hectares of clonal tea are fully irrigated and – as the first in Africa – are 100% machine harvested. The estate has a modern tea processing unit, capable of handling over 3,500 tonnes of made tea per annum. Kibena has also been a strong supporter of smallholder tea producers in the surrounding area from whom the company purchases over 4,500 tonnes of green leaf per annum. Kibena is certified by Fairtrade, Rain Forest Alliance, Ethical Tea Trading Partnership and HACCAP.
Ikanga is a new CTC black tea factory, opened in 2012 in the Lupembe area of the Njombe region. The project is specifically designed to purchase, process and market tea grown on the 2,500 hectares cultivated by the local area’s 3,500 smallholder farmers. The factory is 75% owned by Mufindi Tea Estates with the balance offered to the smallholder members of the newly formed Lupembe Tea Holders Trust (LTFT). The factory provides extensive services to smallholders with the objective of encouraging growth and sustainability among outgrower farmers supplying green leaf to the factory. Services include:
- Provision of fertiliser inputs on a credit basis to all green-leaf suppliers to the factory
- An extension service for all smallholders operated by the factory and the Tea Research Institute of Tanzania and strongly supported by the Chai project (funded by the Woods Foundation). This service provides day-to-day agronomic advice, coordination, and a platform for the development and future expansion of the tea growing area
- Transport of smallholder tea harvests to the factory
- Contract farming, where appropriate
- Green leaf second payments to smallholders based on the performance of business
- Certification by Fairtrade and Rain Forest Alliance
This model has been developed to build a close relationship between the Ikanga shareholders to ensure that all parties benefit from the success of the business and long-term sustainability efforts. Started as a one-line factory in 2012, the factory was extended to a two-line unit in 2013. This gives the plant a total capacity of 3,000 tonnes of made tea per annum
Rift Valley Tea Solutions (RVTS) was established in 2013 to create a tea-trading and tea-blending business in Dar es Salaam. Globally, the tea trade is in a process of change marked by a shift among international buyers to move the responsibility of quality control from the traditional internal tasting methods to the buyers themselves. Moreover, there is a growing demand among end users for blends rather than straight estate teas for general use.
RVTS has obtained bonded warehousing facilities and a state-of-the-art blending plant to blend tea from Tanzania and other African regional tea producers. Relying on a professional team with many years of experience in blending and international trading, RVTS is in a position to deliver tea to international customers according to their exact specifications.
Dar es Salaam has a large port enjoying a dense web of maritime connections with locations worldwide. As a hub, it is ideally located both for the import of teas from leading African regional tea producers and for exporting internationally.