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Indians help revive tea estates in Malawi

By Francis Kokutse, IANS,

Accra : A group of Indian experts is helping revive tea cultivation in Malawi in southern Africa and has so far succeeded in putting 8,500 acres of land under cultivation.

The move follows a slackening of interest in tobacco farming due to low global prices for the crop, Sujeet Katoch, general manager of the Kawalazi Estate Company in Mzuzu, told IANS.

Speaking on the fringes of the Fairtrade Africa Convention in Accra, Katoch said, “Malawian farmers have for a long time depended on tobacco farming but the drop in global prices for tobacco has renewed interest in tea cultivation and some of us have been recruited to help in the building of tea estates.”

Agriculture is the mainstay of Malawi, a country of 13 million people.

Katoch said Indian interest in Malawian tea cultivation dates back to the 1960s but this was not sustained. “For the past three years, however, we have been trying to introduce the concept of small holding farms in tea growing areas and have so far been able to get 10,000 farmers interested in growing tea.”

He said the Kawalazi Estate was opened by the Smallholder Tea Authority in the early 1960s, but following the inability of the small holders to manage it, Global Tea and Commodities (GTC), the current owners, took over in 2001.

Katoch, who comes from Assam in Tinsukia district, said since the takeover of the Estate, “the company has done all-time high crop twice already”.

“The company employs a total workforce of nearly 2,400 men and women in its tea and macadamia operations, making it one of the largest employers in the private sector in the north of the country,” he added.

(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at [email protected])