(Updates with exports in second, seventh paragraphs.)
July 27 (Bloomberg) -- Tea production in Kenya, the world’s biggest exporter of the black variety of the leaves, fell 16 percent in the first half because of drought, the Tea Board of Kenya said.
Output dropped to 178.4 million kilograms (393.3 million pounds) in the six months through June, from 213 million kilograms a year earlier, the Nairobi-based board said in an e- mailed statement. Exports declined 2.4 percent to 211.7 million kilograms, it said.
“Lower production was largely attributed to hot and dry weather conditions experienced during the first quarter of the year as well as depressed and poorly distributed rainfall pattern experienced in most tea growing areas during the second quarter,” it said.
East Africa has suffered from two poor rainy seasons that caused one of the worst droughts since 1950-51, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki in May declared the drought a national disaster.
In neighboring Uganda, Africa’s second-biggest coffee producer, exports of the beans were 3.7 percent below target in the 2010-11 fiscal year because of poor rainfall, while Tanzania said its coffee output may drop 20 percent in the year through 2012 because of drought.
Tea production was worst affected east of the Rift Valley, with output falling 18 percent to 70.7 million kilograms, the Tea Board said. West of the Rift, output declined 15 percent to 126.1 million kilograms, it said.
Pakistan was the biggest export destination for Kenyan tea, accounting for 19 percent of the total, followed by Egypt, Afghanistan and Sudan, the board said. The four markets took 71 percent of Kenya’s shipments, it said.
“The unprecedented increase in tea exports to Pakistan and subsequent drop of tea exports to Afghanistan was attributed to continued reduction of smuggling of commodities into the country through Afghanistan,” the board said. “The reduced volume to Egypt was largely attributed to political unrest within the country at the beginning of the year.”
Tea is the biggest foreign-exchange earner in Kenya, East Africa’s largest economy, which relies on agriculture to generate a quarter of its economic output.
--Editors: Karl Maier, Phil Sanders
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