KENYA–A meeting chaired by Kenyan Trade Principal Secretary Alfred Ombudo has identified the ongoing global dollar crunch experienced by most exporters, high taxation on the packaging, and some ‘incoherent’ policies that have negatively impacted the trade of Kenya’s tea.

The tea trade sector players from the East Africa Tea Traders Association convened to review progress and address challenges in the sector.

The team said efforts are in place to expand the tea export market, which will lead to increased tea production locally, hence more job opportunities and improved economic growth.

The government pledged to work closely with other agencies to address the issues raised and encouraged the value addition of tea.

Similarly, the team consented to the expansion of the export market to curb over-reliance on traditional markets, as well as the inclusion of MSMEs as part of solutions.

Kenya exports 95pc of its tea, making it among the world’s leading exporters. However, the export is set for its first drop since 2017, after drought derailed crop planting and demand from its top buyers slowed.

Overseas sales fell 22 percent to 333.4 million kilograms in the first nine months of the year, according to the Tea Board of Kenya. Production dropped about 2 percent in the period.

The largest markets for Kenyan tea between January and September were Pakistan, Egypt, the UK, and the United Arab Emirates, accounting for 69 percent of exports.

Reduced supplies, with output dropping in competing producers including Sri Lanka, helped drive prices for Kenyan tea, but lack of investment in increasing yields may shutter the future of the industry.

Meanwhile, the Tea Research Institute (TRI) has announced the launch of a new clone that is high-yielding and drought resistant.

TRI has called on tea farmers to embrace the new clone TRFK 31/8, which it said is also resistant to diseases, and has wide adaptability to ever-changing weather patterns.

The Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) Manager for Sustainable Agriculture and Certification Mr. Salesio Kaberia said the old tea bushes are majorly affected by the adverse effects of climate change which influences tea yields across the board by altering precipitation levels, increasing temperatures, shifting the timing of seasons, and encouraging insect pests.

He noted that it is the reason why the agency is encouraging tea farmers to adapt to the new varieties and once the old varieties are uprooted, the new clones planted only take a maximum of two years to mature under skillful husbandry and cultivation.

KTDA is also engaging 139 Tea Service Extension Assistants in rigorous training on the latest technology in tea production and equipping them with knowledge on changes in the industry, a seminar which Mr. Kaberia intimated happens every two years in the West of Rift Region and the East of Rift Region.

He explained that Tea Services Extension Assistants are crucial field officers who train farmers on the application of fertilizer, plucking of quality tea leaves; effective management of tea nurseries, and also assist farmers in planting quality tea plants and carrying out a census of plant population.

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