The Tea Research Foundation of Kenya (TRFK), was established in 1980 to replace the former Tea Research Institute of East Africa (TRIEA) with the objects "to promote research and investigate problems related to tea and such other crops and systems of husbandry as are associated with tea throughout Kenya including the productivity (yield), quality and suitability of land in relation to tea planting; and matters ancillary thereto".
Research focuses therefore on development of improved clones, appropriate technologies for improvement of yield (quantity of green tea leaf/made tea per hectare) and quality of tea products.
This is done through development of appropriate practices for tea production including breeding, clonal selection, correct plant nutrition, optimal crop husbandry methods, crop physiological studies, control of major pests and diseases, tea manufacture, marketing and utilization of finished products.
Annual tea production in Kenya has consistently increased from 1963 to date. It is expected that production will exceed 400,000 metric tons made tea (mt) by the year 2015. Up to 60% of the total Kenyan tea crop is produced by the smallholder sub-sector. This subsector has been expanding rapidly as a consequence of expansion of the hectarage under tea, and adoption of improved clones that have a high productivity per unit area. Overall, Kenya has some of the highest average yields per unit area in the world.
The success of the Kenyan tea industry has among other factors, been ascribed to deployment and leveraging of appropriate research and development (R&D) outputs in the production value chain. The R&D outputs have largely been developed by the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya (TRFK). For example, the TRFK has developed and disseminated improved tea clones that have increased tea yields in Kenya from an average of 1,500 kg to 3,300 kg of made tea per hectare per year (mt/ha/yr) on the large estates, and from an average of 600 kg to 2,300 kg mt/ha/yr under the smallholder production system. Significant yield increases and improved tea quality have been achieved through the development of improved tea clones and production technologies.
The Foundation is responsible to the Ministry of Research Technical Training and Technology (MRTT&T) through its Board of Directors whose mandate is to formulate policies and guidelines for the proper and effective operation of the Foundation.
The Board is composed of membership from the parent ministry, Ministry of Agriculture Livestock Development and Marketing, Tea Board of Kenya, Kenya Tea Growers Association, Kenya Tea Development Corporation and prominent tea growers nominated by parent ministry. The Research Director is the Chief Executive as provided for by the Foundation's Memorandum and Articles of Association (1980) and the State Corporations Act (Cap 446).