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Rwanda and The Wood Foundation Celebrate Rwanda’s First Smallholder-owned Tea Factory

Five thousand smallholder farmers in Rwanda are now the owners of the country’s largest tea factory.

Yesterday 28th March 2022, the Right Honorable Édouard Ngirente, Rwanda's Prime Minister, attended a ceremony at the Mulindi Tea Factory in Gicumbi, Rwanda, where shares in the Mulindi Tea Factory were signed over by The Wood Foundation Africa and Gatsby Africa, the philanthropic investors who had acquired the company when it was privatized by the Government of Rwanda in 2012. This is the first factory to be owned 100% by smallholder farmers in Rwanda.

Sir Ian Wood, Executive Chairman of The Wood Foundation, attended the ceremony on behalf of the philanthropic investors. He said:

It’s been a matter of great pride and satisfaction for Lord Sainsbury and me to work with the tea farmers at Mulindi.  It was difficult, to begin with, but with the investments and significant training programmes, the farmers’ performance and their income have greatly improved.  We are very pleased to be handing over a well-established successful company and will continue to provide some support for an interim period.

The Government of Rwanda has always supported initiatives aiming at enhancing the tea sector, one of the top sources of the country’s revenues.  Currently, the sector has a direct workforce of 60000 people who produce one of premium quality black CTC teas in the world. 

“I look forward to seeing continued growth at Mulindi, that the business maintains a high standard of professionalism and governance, and that it continues to act in the interest of its members.” Dr. Gerardine Mukeshimana, Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources urged farmers.

EATI owned 55% shares in Mulindi Tea Factory following the privatization by the Government of Rwanda while the remaining 45% was held by 5,000 farmers and farmer shareholders represented by two cooperatives - COOPTHE and COOTHEVM, through their umbrella investment vehicle, Mulindi Tea Company (MTC). The factory produces up to four million Kgs of manufactured tea and generates revenues up to USD 9 million per annum.

The Mulindi Tea Factory is now owned 100% by farmers, through two smallholder tea cooperatives – Cooperative Du Thé Mulindi (COOPTHE) and Cooperative Du Thé Villageois Mulindi (COOTHEVM).  The factory has improved the lives and livelihoods of those living in the Mulindi region through the following achievements:

·         Factory capacity has increased from 60 metric tonnes to 120 metric tonnes of green leaf per day.

·         Average farmer annual gross income increased from USD 1,412 in 2013 to USD 2,881 in 2021.

·         Green leaf production has increased from 13.5 million Kgs in 2013 to 18 million Kgs.

·         More than 5,000 farmers have been trained on best practice tea management skills.

·         USD 3.1 million paid to farmers as bonuses over and above their green leaf income.

·         Mulindi Tea Company was recognized as the best taxpayer by Rwanda Revenue Authority in 2015, 2017, & 2019.

 

In support of the Handover Ceremony, Lord David Sainsbury remarked:

After 10 years, the handover of Mulindi represents an exciting new chapter in a project that I’m delighted that Gatsby, my charitable Foundation, has been a part of.  I’d like to thank all those who have contributed to Mulindi’s success, particularly the commitment of the farmers themselves.  I look forward to following the factory’s progress and hopefully we will see more farmer-owned businesses in the region in the future.

Commercial tea production in Gicumbi District began in 1960 with the construction of the Mulindi Factory Company. With a capacity of 3,200 metric tonnes and 175 ha of the industrial block currently occupied, it is now Rwanda's oldest and largest factory in terms of production.

Rwanda earned USD 96.7 million from tea in 2021 (January – December), a 7% increase compared to 2020. Tea export volumes increased 8% from 32,720 metric tonnes of made tea in 2020 to 35,390 metric tonnes in 2021.

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