Kenya to blend its tea

August 18, 2009
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, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 18 – Buying Kenyan tea should soon be associated with the approval of a connoisseur’s taste buds and not just purchase of a green leaf, in a new bid by government.

Agriculture Minister William Ruto says Kenyan tea will be better marketed with added value in a quest to secure new markets for the country.

“Our key markets are increasingly moving from traditional black tea to green, flavoured and ready-to-drink tea. It is imperative we expand our product range if we are going to access these markets,” Mr Ruto said.

Kenya currently sells to only three major markets – Pakistan, Egypt and the United Kingdom – accounting for sixty percent of total tea exports. But now the government is eyeing the Far East as well as Russia where there is a steady demand for the commodity.

The Agriculture Minister noted that Kenya continues to be a leader in terms of sale but very little was being done in diversification of tea products.

“I know the private companies have their own quota to fulfil, but if they could help us in increasing the number of products we can get out of tea, it would greatly assist,” he said.

And despite growing some of the world’s finest tea, few Kenyans have a cup a day. The local consumption rate stands at approximately five percent.

And now the Tea Board of Kenya is working on marketing campaigns aimed at increasing the local tea market as a means of also diversifying the market for Kenyan tea.

The board’s Managing Director Sicily Kariuki said the board was specifically interested in the youth to turn around consumption of tea locally.

“For a long time tea has been viewed as a drink for old people, but if we can diversify products where you have ready to drink tea, iced tea or even flavoured tea I am confident the youth will see tea as something trendy,” she said.

Mr Ruto supported her saying it would also get the youth to be health conscious by taking something with nutritional benefits as opposed to soft drinks.

He was speaking during the inauguration of the new Board of Directors of the Kenya Tea Board, chaired by Titus Kipyab.

Speaking during his inauguration Mr Kipyab said he was happy to be taking the mantle of the board at a time when reforms in the tea sub sector are needed.

“I am aware of the strategic role played by the tea sub sector for Kenya se economic development and the need to drive it to further growth,” he said.

He said growth in the tea industry would be key in driving the country towards Vision 2030 in terms of job and wealth creation.

“The gains made in consolidating leadership of Kenya tea in the global market need to be taken to next level with a view to securing them and enhancing higher return for the industry and all stake holders,” he added. 

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