Consumables:  Tea

Tea plantation workers and small hold farmers can struggle to make a living from tea. Tea plantations can be destinations for child labour and traffiking victims. Furthermore without regulation or funding plantations can be very dangerous work environments. Kenya is the main producer of tea in central and eastern Africa whilst Malawi and Zimbabwe are the major producers in southern Africa.


Tea was introduced to Kenya in 1903 and commercialised in 1924. Black tea is now the major crop while the large companies produce other tea to order. Tea is one of the biggest Kenya foreign exchange earners along with tourism, horticulture and coffee.

The tea production is split into large producers and small holders who are managed by the Kenya Tea Development Agency. They produce 60% of the countries tea through 66 tea factories and 500,000 farmers.


Zimbabwe has only been able to produce tea since the establishment of irrigated tea estates; it would otherwise be impossible due to the small amount of rainfall. According to UK Tea and Infusions Association Zimbabwe now exports over 15,000 tonnes of tea per year. Today, tea is a “controlled” commodity in Zimbabwe so that its quality and industry growth are protected.


Malawi shares a similar climate to Zimbabwe and is the second largest tea producer in Africa, the World Trade Organisation had reported that tea contributes to 8.7 per cent of the country’s agricultural export earnings, earning 11 million US dollars as of end of June 2013, according to the Reserve Bank of Malawi.

However most plantation workers struggle through low wages. Many share the experience of Malawian plantation worker Stephano James who cannot get any other work due to the lack of opportunity and has no choice but to work long hours in poor conditions for little pay.

Ongoing research to improve the calculation and implementing of living wages across the whole industry is currently being done by The Fairtrade Foundation, which you can read more about here. . They are also participating in other initiatives such as Tea 2030 which aims to build a more sustainable tea industry with better wages along the supply chain.