Uganda Sees Tea Production Unchanged in 2013 on Erratic Weather

Tea output in Uganda, Africa’s third-biggest grower of the leaves, may remain unchanged in 2013 because of erratic weather and the increased cost of fertilizers, the Uganda Tea Association said.

Production in the East African nation is expected to be about 55 million kilograms (120 million pounds), the same as last year, said George William Ssekitoleko, the association’s executive secretary. Uganda ranks behind Kenya and Malawi as the continent’s biggest tea producers.

“Weather is the main factor affecting our production and this was the case last year when we had a prolonged drought,” Ssekitoleko said by phone yesterday from Kampala, the capital. “Farmers are applying less fertilizer because of the high costs.”

Uganda exports about 97 percent of its tea via Mombasa, site of the world’s largest tea auction in neighboring Kenya. Production in Uganda, which is also Africa’s biggest coffee exporter, slumped for the second successive year last year from 56 million kilograms in 2011, having fallen from a historic high of 59 million kilograms a year earlier, he said.

The country experienced the worst drought in 60 years over the past two years, leading to food shortages. The association has yet to receive this year’s weather forecast, which in the past has been “unreliable,” Ssekitoleko said.

The cost of imported fertilizers has risen after the Ugandan shilling weakened 7.4 percent against the dollar last year, he said.

The Ugandan unit of McLeod Russell India Ltd. (MCLR), the world’s largest tea grower, accounts for about a quarter of the East African nation’s annual output of the crop, according to the association.

To contact the reporter on this story: Fred Ojambo in Kampala at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

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