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Coffee and Tea Reports from the Front Lines

KPCU Setting Up Network to Market Coffee

Kenya - The Kenya Planters Co-operative Union (KPCU) approved major reforms aimed at improving the international price of locally grown coffee, reports the Nation.

The union is installing a modern coffee roasting and packaging plant and intends to start packaging coffee under different brand names.

Announcing the developments, the chairman, Stephen Kirubi, said they had registered different brand names with the Kenya Intellectual Properties Office.

“This will enable us finalize on the packaging materials, which will distinctively portray our rich cultural and geographical features, and market Kenya as a preferred tourist destination,” he added.

Kirubi said the union was working closely with Kenya’s foreign missions in establishing a stable distribution and marketing network selling the coffee abroad.

It will be the first time Kenya coffee is marketed internationally under a local brand name. Currently, multinational companies roast the exported coffee and package it under their own brand names, before re-exporting it back to Kenya at exorbitant prices.

“This will not only encourage cherry theft but also negate the governments efforts of pooling together resources for wealth creation and eradication of poverty,” he said.

In addition, the proposed system will dismantle the existing farmers’ credit structures that facilitate financing of the coffee sector.

Uganda Tea Group Encourages Multinationals

Uganda - Uganda Tea Association says more multinational tea companies are free to come and invest in tea because the sector is not fully exploited, reports The Monitor.

There are only two multinational tea companies in Uganda - Toro-Mityana Tea and James Finlay (formerly Rwenzori Highland Tea).

Isaac Munabi, the executive secretary of the Uganda Tea Association, told The Monitor that the tea industry is steadily growing and could do better if the Tea Research Station at Rwebitaba is revived to develop new tea clones.

Munabi said if a well functioning research station is put in place, along with more multinationals making investments in the sector, Uganda’s tea industry can grow and boost economic growth.

“More multinational tea companies can come and invest in tea industry, because when they come and establish tea estates and factories, our tea production will increase and more jobs will be created for Ugandans,” he said.

He said tea increased from 36.5 million kgs in 2003 to 37 million kgs in 2004 and earned the country $46.2 million. In 2003, Uganda earned $42.5 million from tea exports.

Munabi said the contribution of tea to Uganda’s economy is not high as that of Kenya because tea is not the leading cash crop as it is Kenya.

Fired Tea Workers Back as Strike Ends

Kenya - A strike by Kenya Tea Development Agency employees has been called off, reports the Nation.

Four days into the strike, KTDA had already fired several workers for taking part in the strike. All fired workers will now have to be reinstated unconditionally, a consultative meeting held yesterday between officials of the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE), KTDA and the workers’ umbrella union resolved.

The Cotu secretary-general had called on the minister to convene a meeting to resolve the dispute that saw 15,000 tea workers countrywide down their tools.

The industrial action that was to press for a 32% pay hike saw operations at all 55 tea factories grounded.

The workers went on strike after the salary increment, ranging between 24 and 32% - depending on the basic pay - awarded by the Industrial Court last year was dishonored.

Can You Really Sober Up with Coffee?

United Kingdom - We all know drinking too much alcohol can result in a wild night where anything can happen. But most feel that a strong cup of coffee or a personal incentive to stay out of trouble can stop us from doing anything too crazy. How true is this folk wisdom?

Research psychologists at the University of Waterloo got a bunch of undergraduates inebriated to find the answer. The researchers were interested in how much control could be regained by drunk students if they were given either caffeine (equal to about 2 1/2 cups of coffee) or a small financial incentive to sober up. Upon being inebriated with an alcohol-laced soft drink (equivalent to about three beers for someone weighing 150 pounds), the students were asked to complete a rather complex word game. The students who had been given just alcohol performed the worst, the drunk students with the small financial incentive to do well in the word game performed the best, and those who were given caffeine performed somewhere in the middle. The study, appearing in Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology Journal, only looked at behavioral control and has no implications for other effects of alcohol, such as diminished reflexes and spatial distortion.

Green Tea Extract May Not Help Fight Cancer

Green tea is often drunk by people in hopes of warding off cancer, heart disease and immune system ailments, but it may be a misconception that supplements made from concentrated tea extract will multiply those benefits.

A study completed by University of Mississippi researchers indicates that extremely high doses of green tea extract actually may activate - rather than shut down - genetic mechanisms that help certain tumors survive and grow.

“Drinking green tea is still good for you,” said Yu-Dong Zhou, a molecular biologist at the university’s National Center for Natural Products Research. “There are thousands of years of evidence on that, but the idea of taking the equivalent of hundreds of cups of tea a day is something that needs to be looked at carefully.”

Zhou is principal investigator on a study that examined the effect of high doses of the active ingredients in green tea extract on hypoxia-inducible factor-1, or HIF-1, a key regulator of how tumor cells adapt to low-oxygen conditions. The results were published in a recent issue of the Journal of Natural Products.

In recent years, several manufacturers have produced dietary supplements containing concentrated extracts of green tea’s active ingredients. The compounds are not toxic in large doses, but high concentrations may not necessarily be healthful, explained Dale Nagle, associate professor of pharmacognosy in the UM School of Pharmacy who worked with Zhou on the project. Many commercial supplements provide far more of the active compounds than a person could obtain by simply drinking tea.

“Nearly all the evidence of the beneficial effects of green tea comes from studies on populations who consume green tea, not tea extract in the form of powder, concentrates or pills,” Nagle explained. “There is no direct evidence that taking reasonable quantities of these green tea products is toxic. But the issue here is whether these extremely high doses are really beneficial.

“The fact that the green tea ingredient known as ECG activates HIF-1 - which can have different effects depending on the type of tumor - means it may not have the desired effect that people think they’re getting.”

The active compounds in green tea could actually serve dual functions, inhibiting HIF-1 at low concentrations and activating it at higher doses, Zhou said.

“At low concentrations, it doesn’t seem to have this potentially negative effect as we saw in the lab,” she said. “A lot more study needs to be done to see what the outcome will be in people who take high doses of these compounds.”

“In theory, this effect on HIF-1 could suppress some early forms of tumors but may actually help other tumors - especially some of the more aggressive ones - survive and grow,” Nagle said.

Tea & Coffee - May/June, 2005


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