KENYA – Kenya’s tea exports to top buyer Pakistan dropped by half or US$36.55 million loss in sales compared to the same period last year after the top market instituted a requirement for rigorous testing for aflatoxin.

The Tea Directorate attributed declined sales to strict rules used in aflatoxin tests following a disagreement between Kenya and Pakistan over suspected aflatoxin in local tea.

The uncertainties put the tea sector in a dilemma after buyers became reluctant to purchase the product, together with delayed tea consignments meant to be exported to Pakistan.

Plant Protection Board of Pakistan had directed that all tea imports from Kenya be subjected to compulsory aflatoxin tests, but Kenya got a sigh of relief when Pakistan Tea Association reversed the requirement.

“Some progress has been made in that the initial directive requiring sampling and inspection of tea consignments at the Karachi port has been reversed,” said East African Tea Traders Association (EATTA) managing director Edward Mudibo.

In January 2017, tea earnings were US$73.11 million, and Pakistan being the leading buyer of Kenyan tea, made 40% of total earnings from the beverage, according to data from the Tea Directorate.

Risk in tea losses was sparked by unpredictable procedures during sampling and inspection of tea samples at Karachi.

“Obviously the decline in sales was a result of the requirement for an aflatoxin certificate for Kenyan tea, which has so far been removed,” said an official from the directorate.

This happens even after scientists developed a new technology that detects aflatoxins on location, a simple method to perform and can detect contamination in less than 15 minutes.

It’s not the first time Kenya is struggling with standard related interventions from the international market, something that has impacted heavily on the country’s top export commodity in the recent past.

Kenya and Iran found themselves in a ‘standards tussle’ due to the different standards of accepted level of moisture content in the tea, threatening the commodity’s sales to the Middle East country.

Sudan has also raised a controversy, saying that it wanted sell-by date of the Kenyan beverage to be reduced to one and a half years as opposed to 3 years.