A partnership between the Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) and the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) came to fruition on January 6, 2022 with a maiden trip in which 31 containers of packed tea (800 tonnes) were transported to Mombasa via the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
The partnership is intended to lower transportation costs as one way of eliminating inefficiencies in the tea supply chain and delivering greater value for farmers. Tea from KTDA-managed factories will be transported from tea-growing counties to the Nairobi Freight Terminal, then loaded onto Kenya Railways wagons and transported via SGR to the Port of Mombasa for onward export.
“Plans to transport tea via Kenya Railways have been in the pipeline for a while now as we explored new technologies and infrastructure to enhance efficiencies in the tea supply chain. We are cognizant that the progression to Kenya Railways will guarantee faster, safer and more convenient transportation of tea,” stated Prof Hamadi Boga, Principal Secretary in State Department for Crop Development and Agricultural Research.
Prof Boga spoke in Mombasa while receiving the first batch of KTDA tea transported on the SGR.
KTDA sees the partnership with Kenya Railways as an effective way to move large volumes of cargo while also reducing transit times. In the ongoing pilot phase, KTDA will be moving 20,000 packages per week on the SGR as it looks to transition fully to rail transportation.
Banking on the plan, KTDA is currently establishing a tea handling facility next to the Nairobi Inland Container Depot (ICD) to further streamline the transportation process.
“Transporting tea through Kenya Railways means that the roads will be decongested because one train can transport an equivalent volume that would take many trucks to transport by road.”
“Today we are transporting 31 containers of tea on one train. This would have taken 31 trucks if we were to do it by road. We are therefore glad to be in this partnership with KTDA because the Madaraka Express Freight Service is a faster, safer and more efficient option,” Kenya Railways Managing Director Philip Mainga observed.
Kenya Railways also expects to begin transportation of cargo on the newly refurbished Metre Gauge Railway (MGR) line. The move will allow cargo from the Port of Mombasa to reach Malaba and Kisumu once transferred from the SGR at Longonot Station.
“Every year we move about 300 million kilogrammes of processed teas and we expect these large volumes will mean greater savings for farmers as we progressively migrate to the Kenya Railways. Initially, we expect to transport 20,000 packages every week as we fine-tune the system and processes before full migration,” stated KTDA Holdings Chairman David Ichoho.