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Ugandan Tea Output May Climb 3.8% This Year on Better Crop Care

Tea output in Uganda, Africa’s third-largest producer of the leaf, may climb 3.8 percent this year because of increased planting and improved crop husbandry, the Uganda Tea Association said.

Production this calendar year may rise to 55 million kilograms (121.3 million pounds) from a provisional estimate of 53 million kilograms for 2010, Executive Secretary George Ssekitoleko said by phone today from the capital, Kampala.

“Over the years we’ve registered a positive trend in our production and it’s likely to be the case this year with good weather,” he said. “Farmers are doing their best in caring for the crop and some of the recent plantings are now yielding.”

Ugandan tea output, which slumped to 5.6 million kilograms in 1985 from 23 million kilograms in 1972, is recovering after the government returned estates which had been confiscated during the rule of former dictator Idi Amin to their owners.

While the provisional estimate for last year is 4 percent better than the 50.97 million kilograms produced in 2009, it’s lower than an initial forecast of 54 million kilograms, said the association, which represents both producers and exporters of the leaf.

“We’re still getting returns for last year, but the final production figure may be 53 million kilograms,” Ssekitoleko said, without giving a reason for the shortfall.

Uganda, which exports about 97 percent of its crop, ships most its tea through weekly auctions at the port city of Mombasa in neighboring Kenya. The nation’s export earnings from the leaf rose 21 percent to $92 million in 2009, according to the agency. Figures for 2010 aren’t yet available, Ssekitoleko said.

In Africa, only Kenya and Malawi produce more tea than Uganda.

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