The Lipton Factor: Unilever spend doubles size of Tanzania tea business

By Ben BOUCKLEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

Tea from Unilever's Mufindi estates is used worldwide for its Lipton brand (Picture Credit: Steve Snodgrass/Flickr)
Tea from Unilever's Mufindi estates is used worldwide for its Lipton brand (Picture Credit: Steve Snodgrass/Flickr)
Unilever is partnering the Tanzanian Government to reinvigorate the tea industry and ‘at least double’ its tea output in the country, where the leaves are used for top brands Lipton and PG Tips.

The partnership will create 5000 jobs on Unilever’s tea estates in Mufindi and develop 6000 hectares of tea farms owned by smallholders.

Unilever currently harvests 10000 tonnes of tea per year at its Mufindi estates, but says the new investment wills at leastdouble that figure.

The multinational will work with the government, Tea Board of Tanzania and Tanzania Smallholder Tea Development Agency to improve the supply chain, yield and quality of tea.

Money will be spent on Unilever’s tea estates and supply chain, new factories, local infrastructure and R&D; support will be lent farmers to win Rainforest Alliance certification for sustainability.

Positive social impact

Unilever says its investment – first proposed in 2012 – will improve the lives of around 30000 people economically sustained by smallholder farming.

Pier Luigi Sigismondi, Unilver chief supply officer, said the company’s vision involved doubling the size of its business while reducing its environmental footprint and upping its positive social impact.

Insisting on the need for business to grow equitably and sustainably, Sigismondi said that large-scale change involved proper collaboration between firms, governments and NGOs.

Yesterday’s announcement aimed to do precisely that, he explained, adding: “I am honored to be able to work with partners such as the Tanzanian Government to help secure the future of the Tanzanian tea industry by promoting sustainable agriculture and improving the lives of small farmers in order to produce the high quality tea our consumers demand.”

Government welcomes deal

Tanzanian minister of agriculture, Christopher Chiza said his government was committed to commercializing agriculture while creating income streams for smallholders and responsibly managing natural resources.

Unilever had aligned its investment strategy with the Tanzania Tea Industry Development Strategy and the Transformation of Smallholder Tea, he added.

“This opportunity, will allow us to achieve our objective of commercialization of tea farming by smallholder growers through effective involvement in the tea value chain,”​ Chiza said.

Unilever claims to be the first major tea company to commit to large-scale sustainable tea sourcing and aims to source all the tea in Lipton bags from Rainforest Alliance-certified estates by 2015.

By 2020 the company promises that 100% of teas will be sustainably sourced.

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