Kenya set to have bulk tea export policy
The government will formulate a policy to ensure all local bulk tea for the export market is branded.
Industry and Trade Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said lack of proper branding of local tea is one of the biggest challenges insofar as selling the produce to the global market.
Speaking during a visit to Kanyenyaini Tea Factory in Kangema, Murang’a county, Munya said the country produces the best tea quality in the world which is used to blend other teas to enhance their quality.
“When Kenyan tea is exported in bulk without being branded, you cannot be able to trace it in the international market as other traders repackage it and sell under their brands,” Munya said.
This, he said, deprives the country a lot of money, arguing that time had come to change tactics in order to effectively compete in international markets.
Munya said currently only five per cent of the export tea is packaged and branded as the rest is sold in bulk at the Mombasa auction market.
The branding, he said, would help control market traceability, consumer influence and value addition, a move he said would in return bring more money to the local farmer.
“The reason why Sri Lanka which produces less tea than Kenya gets more money from tea is that theirs is branded hence creating high demand and pushing the prices high” Munya noted.
“Sri Lanka has made it mandatory for factories to package and brand their tea before exportation and those who do not are slapped with a 10 per cent tax. Over 80 per cent of its exported tea is packaged,” he said.
He added that there are about 10 countries which use the Mombasa auction market to sell their tea produce thereby creating very high competition.
“If we don’t brand our tea how will the prospective buyer distinguish it from others?” he posed and urged tea farmers to consider diversification to orthodox and speciality teas which are fetching better prices in the international markets.
He said the government would help the factories establish a processing line for the orthodox tea, adding: “Unlike the common black tea, orthodox tea has better prices and more stable.”
Orthodox tea basically refers to the loose tea, which is produced using the traditional method of tea production.
This involves plucking, withering, rolling, oxidation and drying. Orthodox tea has a great aroma that is easily identifiable.
As for the black tea, the basic process is the cut, tear and curl (CTC) before undergoing a fermentation process.
There are also far more benefits of Orthodox tea than any other tea, especially in regard to health benefits.
It is high in antioxidants as compared to CTC which loses its antioxidant quality comparatively due to machine processing. Antioxidants help neutralise damaged cells which help people look and feel better. It also helps prevent cardiovascular disease.
Munya warned private companies engaging in tea hawking, saying they risk having their licences revoked.
The trend, he said, has created unfair competition in the sub-sector, adding that hawkers are using existing structures laid down by Kenya Tea Development Agency KTDA instead of establishing their own.
“Hawking is allowed by law but one will have to invest in their own structures,” he said.