Tea Research Institution Calls for Adoption of Modern Farming Technologies

Changazi, smallholder tea growers are surving because of TRFCA released cultivars Changazi, smallholder tea growers are surving because of TRFCA released cultivars - pic by Hastings Jimani

A tea research institution-Tea Research Foundation for Central Africa (TRFCA) has challenged tea growers to seriously adopt newly developed technologies as climate change continues affecting tea production.

Director of TRFCA Dr. Jonathan Mkumbira said just like any other crop, tea production has not been spared by effects of climate change.

Dr. Mkumbira who disclosed this on Tuesday during a tea field day in Mulanje said cumulatively, the institution has developed 45 cultivars since its establishment in 1954.

“Last year alone we released four cultivars, PC- 401, 402, 403, 404 whose breeding has taken over 20 years but I assure you, they are high yielding varieties, and I therefore urge you (both tea estate companies and smallholder tea growers) to adopt them,” said Dr. Mkumbira.

He also mentioned that PC-168 as one of the best cultivars the institution has developed and has been adopted in all tea growing countries across Africa.

Concurring with Dr. Mkumbira, TRFCA Research Scientist Dr. Nicholas Mphangwe said low tea quality, recurrent drought and consumers’ preference changes are other challenges affecting breeding of tea plants in Malawi.

“As TRFCA, we use these challenges as opportunities to continue developing and releasing new cultivars because tea production challenges change over time and it is very difficult to fix all desired attributes in a single cultivar,” said Dr. Mphangwe?

Smallholder tea growers have also been benefiting from technologies which TRFCA releases.

Austin Changazi who is General Manager of Sukambizi Tea Association in Mulanje and Thyolo said his farmers have been surviving because of new releases by the TRFCA.

“Smallholder farmers started growing tea in 1965 when all the favorable tea growing conditions were good but in recent years, the conditions have not been good hence depending on drought tolerant tea cultivars released by TRFCA,” said Changazi.

Tea is the country’s second foreign exchange earner after tobacco.

This year’s tea field day has been held under the theme “Technology Development key to Sustainable Tea Production”.

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