By George Munene
On Saturday, 26 June 2021, Bomet County shipped 84 tons of tea to Iran–commencing direct tea sales to the Middle Eastern country. This will mean increased incomes for the county’s over 100,000 small-scale tea farmers.
This follows talks between Bomet Governor Dr. Hillary Barchok and Iranian ambassador to Kenya H.E Jafar Barmaki have been ongoing for two years.
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Demand for tea in Iran stands at 116 million kilos, with the country only producing 20 million kilos. This provides a potential market for Kenyan tea that is highly prized internationally. “Very few Iranians can afford Keyan tea because of its taste and quality. If I need Kenyan tea I have to order from Europe and that makes it unaffordable to many Iranians,” said Barmaki
As of 2019, Kenya exported 532,715 kilograms to Iran–these numbers are however highly curtailed by US sanctions on the Islamic republic.
Barchok insisted that direct markets offer farmers better prices and an alternative to the Kenya Tea Development Agency and the Mombasa Auction–bodies bedeviled by mismanagement and accusations of corruption. Prior to their amendment, Kenya’s tea exporting rules mandated that exported tea passes through the Mombasa tea auction house.
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According to data from the Kenya Tea Directorate, Kenya exported 153.2 million kilograms of tea in the first three months of 2021, an 18.9 per cent jump in the first quarter of the year compared to 2020. Pakistan accounted for 40 per cent of the total shipments with other key destinations being Egypt, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Russia, Sudan, Yemen, and Kazakhstan.