TEA PACKED AT THE SOURCE

Profile:
Iriaini Tea Factory
Product focus: Tea
Location: Othaya, Kenya
Type: Small producer – 6.000 farmers
Fairtrade certificate since: 2006
Contact: George Mwangi – gmwangi@gmail.com; info@iriaini.ktdateas.com

Challenge:
Less than 5% of Iriaini Tea Factory’s sales are under Fairtrade terms. On average its small-scale farmers, who are co-owners of the factory, own 0.5 acres of land and earn 150 KS (less than 2USD) per day. The company decided to set up different projects to improve the livelihoods of its farmers. One was to add value at the source – instead of exporting loose tea the company is now packing the tea in the factory.

Solution:
Iriaini found the perfect partner in UK retailer Marks & Spencer. During a visit to the tea farm to observe the impact of Fairtrade on farmers, the retailer was impressed with the organisation’s income diversification project, funded by the Fairtrade premium. M&S proposed to help Iriaini to become the first Kenyan tea factory that packed at the source. DFID, the UK development agency, agreed to fund the project.

Marks & Spencer provided technical and commercial support from its team of experts to ensure the Fairtrade farmers developed the skills needed to understand how to pack tea. A teabag packing line has now been established at Iriaini and M&S has been working with the factory to ensure the tea packing room was brought up to international standards.

Cost:
DFID financially supported the project and with this grant M&S leased a packaging machine for Iriaini in 2011. Last year, Iriaini decided to buy the machine at a reduced price. In addition it also invested in a machine for heat sealing. The total investment for Iriaini came to 1.5 million KS (or USD 17,000).

Result:

Although officially kicked off in November 2011, Iriaini has only packed 2,000 kilo of tea so far. According to M&S sales have been low. However, the project has truly empowered the workers at Iriaini. Not only have they gained new technical, product development and commercial skills, the organisation designed its own package and is preparing for a launch on the Kenyan market. Currently Iriaini’s packed tea is going through the Fairtrade license process so that it will carry the FAIRTRADE mark on its boxes. Not only do the Iriaini farmers want to conquer the Eastern African market. If all goes well, they plan to expand to West Africa so that Africans no longer need to rely on Western tea supply.