Uganda – Africa’s Third Largest Tea Producer

Like Kenya and Tanzania, Uganda has had to fight to keep their tea industry
alive and thriving.  Tea was first introduced in the Botanic Gardens at Entebbe,
Uganda in 1909, but commercial cultivation didn’t begin until the late 1920’s,
when Brooke Bond began extensive plantings.
With its temperate climate and
rich soil, Uganda grows some of
the world’s top quality tea.  But in the 1970s tea
productions nearly stopped due to warfare, eco-
nomic upheaval, and the government’s expulsion
of many Asian owned tea estates.
In the early 1980s, British businessman and entre-
preneur, Mitchell Cotts returned to Uganda and
formed the Toro and
Mityana Tea Co., (Tam-
etco), a joint venture
with the government.
This move increased
tea production from
1,700 tons in 1981 to
5,600  tons in 1985,
yet production was far less than the peak amount of 22,000 tons in 1974, and even began to
decline again slightly after 1985.
In an effort to expand tea production, the government doubled
prices paid to producers in 1988, but it did little to increase
production amounts with only about one tenth or 2,100 acres of
the total 21,000 acres of tea fully productive, with 4,600 tons of
tea produced in the 1988-89 season.

By the end of 1989 tea production rose to 6,900 tons of which
4,700 were exported, earning about 3.6 million U.S. Dollars.  To
meet an ever growing demand the government hoped to in-
crease tea production to about 10,000 tons by 1991.

In 1989 a joint venture between Tamet-
co, now owned by the Mehta family, and
the government owned Uganda Tea
Corporation, managed most of Uganda’s
tea production.  Tametco owned three
large plantations totaling 2,300 hectares
of land, with only about half fully produc-
tive.  Of the government’s portion, the
Uganda Tea Corporation had approximat-
ely 900 hectares under full production
and was in the process of further ex-
panding its landholdings.

Agricultural Enterprises Limited, a state
owned company managed approximately
3,000 hectares of tea, and about 11,000
smallholder farmers worked an additional 9,000 hec-
tares of land, marketing their tea through the para-
statal Uganda Tea Growers Corporation (UTGC).

This left several thousand hectares of tea estates in
what was called a “disputed” category.  This was land owned mainly by Asians who had been
forced to abandon their tea estates by the government during the 1970s.  These tea estates
were sold in 1990 to private parties in an effort to help rehabilitate and improve Uganda’s tea
industry and local management practices.

Most of the earnings made by Tametco and the Uganda Tea
Corporation were used to cover operating expenses and
corporate debts, so the expansion of Uganda’s tea production
was just beginning in 1990.

With help from the EEC and the World Bank, efforts were made
to revive Uganda’s smallholder farms, and the Uganda Tea
Growers Corporation (UTGC), together with help from the Netherlands, rehabilitated seven tea

The JV of Tametco and UTC, along with additional financing from the Uganda Development Bank,
bought tea harvestors from Australian manufacturers in an effort to further aid in mechanized
tea harvesting and processing, but unfortunately their efforts were further hampered by the lack
of continued operating capital.

Today, one of the country’s largest tea producers is Uganda Tea
Corporation, Limited (UTCL), headed up by Executive Chairman, Mrs.
Yvonne Diana Mehta.  The company owns and operates three large
estates:  Kasuku, Luwala, and Salaama, located in the Mukono and
Jinja Districts.

Within the three tea estates UTCL operates two tea factories, as
well as a retail factory outlet. It also processes green leaf from reputable growers and some
independent smallholders, providing an increased supply of tea to its factories.

UTCL has more than 2,000 hectares of land under production with approximately 1,200 hectares
of tea, with the remaining balance supporting forestation and food crops.

From a mere 200,000 kilos of tea produced per year during the
early 1980s, to over 3.5 million kilos of tea per year today and
growing, UTCL is one of Uganda’s leading privately owned
companies, contributing more than 10% of Uganda’s total yearly
tea production.  Approximately 80% of UTCL’s tea is exported,
earning valuable foreign exchange for their country.

The country currently runs three production lines at full capacity at one of their factories with
plans to increase production after upgrading plant facilities and equipment. Along with increased
productivity, UTCL is currently building brand recognition, marketing its teas under the “SUN

UTCL is just one example of how Uganda is rebuilding its tea industry to become a strong  partici-
pant in world tea production.  Most of the tea produced, like 
KenyaMalawi, and Tanzania is high
 CTC (cut-tear-curl) used in blends and tea bags.
Uganda’s climate provides plentiful sunshine and abundant rainfall, along with rich soil conditions
and a relatively high altitude, everything required to grow abundant, quality tea.

Like Kenya and Tanzania, Uganda’s tea industry came back from near ruin to be stronger and
more vital than ever.  It will be interesting to watch and see what good things are in store from
this determined country in the future.