Stars are aligning for Kenya tea farmers

The future for tea farmers in the country looks all the more favorable following the onset of processed tea exports that offer up to four times more money per kilo compared to proceeds from the Mombasa tea auction.

Last week, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi flagged off the inaugural shipment of processed Kenyan Tea destined for Australia in a gesture signaling a change of farmers’ fortunes for the better.

The initial 2,680 kilograms batch branded “Akira” is valued at Kes3,706,966, (about Kes1374.4 per kilo) more than quadruple the amount fetched at the Mombasa Tea Auction that oscillates around kes300 per kilo.

The shipment to Australia marks an important milestone in market diversification to hedge the risk of unstable prices on the back of weak demand from the heritage markets as well as broadening the spectrum of products offered in the tea value chain.

Currency crises in Egypt and Pakistan, two of the major importers of Kenyan tea, have precipitated low demand which in turn has negatively affected prices at the auction, underscoring the essence of having a large customer pool.

Speaking during the occasion, Mr Linturi called for value addition in the tea sector, adding that half of the country’s greenleaf will be shipped to markets processed within five years. “Adding value to Kenyan teas before export is a viable route of growing the country’s manufactured exports, transforming the tea sub-sector in Kenya, and ensuring food security,” he said.

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“The initiative by Empire is a bold step towards the realization of His Excellency the President’s directive to increase the volumes of value-added Kenyan tea exports from the current 1 to 50 per cent by 2027,” the minister noted.

According to CS Linturi, the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) will also support the cause by installing 12 high value specialty tea lines in select factories to boost tea output and increase earnings for smallholder farmers.

The Australian shipment comes three months after President William Ruto flagged off a similar consignment to Ghana in October last year under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), where he instructed the divulged a plan to market Kenyan tea as a brand.

“The instructions to the Ministry [of Trade] are very clear. We must have a Kenyan tea brand that we can market,” the Head of State said.

The tea sector is due for a makeover with the government set to implement Tea Sector Reforms aimed at subduing the outsized influence of cartels in the trade.

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