Kenya is one of the world’s largest tea exporters but until now the hundreds of thousands of growers there were prohibited from dealing directly with buyers. Easing export rules for farmers and farmers’ organizations will greatly benefit Kenya’s small but promising specialty tea industry.
Martin Kabaki, founder and CEO of Kenyan Purple Tea, said the “Kenyan government understands very well that tea is one of its biggest foreign exchange earning exports and they also understand that the prices of regular black tea keep falling each year.”
Introducing new tea that can be sold at a more premium price “will not only put Kenya on the map for specialty teas but also have a positive impact for Kenya’s poor tea growers, which will ultimately impact Kenya’s economy at large,” he said.
Established growers have in the past worked with the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) to sell their teas at the auction house in Mombasa. KTDA manages and markets tea for 65 companies. As a result, there are very few suppliers outside the network.
Significant fluctuations in pricing due to weather and political upheaval introduced damaging volatility in the market for the black cut-tear-curl (CTC) teas that make up most of Kenya’s crop. The decision to permit direct export was in response to unscrupulous middlemen, according to government officials.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett told All Africa that what tea producers currently endure at the Mombasa port is “exploitative and abusive.”
“The government has introduced several new measures to stamp out the exploitation of tea farmers and tea companies and now counties have been allowed to export the tea directly into the world market and seek those buyers who would buy it at high prices,” the minister told farmers.
Bett said that numerous reforms are under discussion to encourage farmers who have threatened to replant their gardens due to falling prices.
“International buyers are shunning Kenyan tea because of too many taxes. These should be done away with as they consume huge amounts of farmers’ profits,” said Siret Tea Company director Joseph Manjoy Lagat. Lagat is pressing the government for legislation to remove tea from a 1% levy on produce.
Kabaki, a native of Kenya who now lives in Jacksonville, Fla., is a pioneer in the Kenyan specialty market who works directly with Kenyan purple tea growers. The company recently partnered with International Tea Importers (ITI) to launch the bulk loose leaf Kenyan purple tea into the U.S. market.
Source: All Africa