By George Munene
Kenya has shipped its first-ever consignment of value-added tea (2.68 metric tonnes) worth Sh3.7 million to Australia.
This marks a first for the country which aims to increase the volumes of value-added tea exports from the current one per cent to 50 per cent by 2027. Through select KTDA factories, the ministry is working on introducing 12 high-value specialty tea lines to increase the pay of smallholder tea farmers.
The value-added tea is black tea in chocolate, mango, and passion flavours.
Through the Agriculture Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy (ASTGS), the Ministry intends to achieve the goal of increasing agricultural GDP from Sh2.9 trillion to Sh3.9 trillion t by promoting product diversification and value addition along the agricultural value chains, including the tea value chain.
“I am delighted to join you today to flag off the first-ever consignment of Kenyan value-added teas to Australia. The tea consignment produced by Empire Teas EPZ is expected to fetch an average price of Sh1,364 per kilo,” Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi said during a flagging-off ceremony at the Mombasa Port.
This effort comes as plummeting demand and prices for similar teas sold in bulk at the Mombasa tea auction have seen prices average Sh312 per kilo. He noted that adding value to Kenyan teas before export is a viable route for growing the country’s manufactured exports, transforming the tea sub-sector in Kenya, and ensuring food security.
“Our work to diversify our tea market will protect the Kenyan tea sector from over-dependence on a small number of traditional markets that have a preference for bulk teas (Kenya accounts for 28 per cent of global tea exports but its export earnings remain relatively low) and are easily unstable by economic and political shocks,” said Linturi.
Thushara De Silva, MD Empire Kenya (EPZ) Limited, stated that the government should lower packaging and production costs to improve the competitiveness of value addition as up to 70 per cent of the tea sales go into packaging and branding costs.
“We import the packaging material from Sri Lanka where all the tea packaging materials are zero-rated. Our mission is to promote Kenyan tea in the world. Now because we want to package and promote Kenyan tea as the best in the world, we have to use the best material,” he noted.
Kenya’s black tea export volumes are expected to decline for the first time in five years driven by five straight seasons of below-par rains and depressed demand.
Tea is the country’s most exported product with Kenya being the third largest tea exporter in the world. Its key destinations are Pakistan, Egypt, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, and Russia.