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Kenya tea more appealing in Japan

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 31 – Kenya’s tea market share in Japan could rise in the near future following increased demand for the commodity there.

Tea exports to Japan have grown by 77 percent in the last six years from 1.3 million kilograms in 2002 to 2.3 million kilograms in 2008.  However, this represents a small fraction of tea imports by Japan, which is the world’s fourth largest consumer of tea at about 140 million kilograms per annum.

A visit by a delegation from the Japan Tea Association (JTA), which arrived in the country on January 24 for a week-long mission, has heightened prospects for the growth of the product with the delegation approving Kenyan tea’s quality as standing above the rest.

JTA Chairman Kenji Kataoka, on behalf of the delegation, expressed satisfaction that Kenyan tea meets the requisite quality standards requirements for the Japanese market. He said the visits they had made to some key tea producing and processing areas in the country confirmed to them that there was a high level of awareness in the industry of quality requirements in Japan and other markets.

The delegation was accompanied by Kenya’s Ambassador to Japan, Dennis Awori.

The visit was a follow-up of discussions between Kenya and Japan during the 4th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD-IV) which took place from May 28-30. The delegation held a series of sessions with key industry stakeholders where they were furnished with information on Kenyan tea, its quality attributes and the high standards applied in production and processing. Among the stakeholders who interacted with the delegation were tea producers, processors, quality control institutions, traders, research institutions and Government agencies.

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula hailed efforts by both the Governments of Kenya and Japan to address the trade imbalance, which currently favours Japan. He lauded the trade and product diversification programme, which is being supported by the Government of Japan to increase the volume and value of exports from Kenya and other African countries.

Chairman of the Tea Board of Kenya, Dunstan Ngumo, assured the Japanese delegation, that Kenya produces sufficient volumes to meet the growing demand in

Japan. These include the Kenya Black CTC tea, renowned for its quality and unique flavour, and Kenya Green teas, a variety that is popular in the Japanese market.  The key issues of concern raised during the discussions include traceability along the value chain, plucking and processing standards, certification of factories in relevant food safety standards (ISO 22000) and adherence to environmental sustainability.

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The delegation urged the Government of Kenya and industry players to invest in branding to give Kenyan tea the distinct mark in the Japanese market.

The CEO of the Nairobi office of Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), Shintaro Matoba, said the sector-oriented mission would open more opportunities for Kenya to capture the Japanese tea market, which is worth 40 billion Yen. This would be made possible through continuous interactions and contact between stakeholders from both countries.

In his address during the farewell session, the Minister for Agriculture William Ruto said Kenya was willing to partner with JTA to develop additional tea brands for the Japanese market, such as Green teas.

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