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Think wider, Minister tells exporters

NAIROBI, Kenya Mar 24 – Kenya needs to diversify its export products and markets for it to improve its balance of trade, Assistant Minister Omingo Magara said on Tuesday.

Speaking during the launch of theNationalExport Market Development Programme on Tuesday, the Trade Assistant Minister said Kenya should look beyond the East Africa Community (EAC) and COMESA regions and boost trade with other emerging markets.

“60 percent of our export in two regional blocs is not a safe thing to do,” said Mr Magara, arguing that traditional markets do not offer competitive prices.

“As we solidify our existing markets we need to venture into new markets.”

He further challenged the exporters to consider diversifying the range of products with more value addition and branding of Kenyan exports.

“The reason why our value in exports is really wanting is because we export in bulk. This traditional  thing that we must say when we go to Europe and find Kenyan tea being called ‘English breakfast tea’ is an offensive statement,” he emphasised.

Export Promotion Council (EPC) Chief Executive Officer Matanda Wabuyele says the 2009 National Export Market Development Programme, has increased the number of events, fairs and exhibitions, and the trade missions and surveys that it intends to carry out in Africa.

“We also want to deepen our promotional activities in Morocco, Tunisia and Nigeria, which can be perfect markets for our tea and coffee. Our exports promotional activities are, however, constrained by our small budget of Sh100 million of which 75 percent goes to operations and salaries,” the EPC boss said.

The council requires about Sh350 million every year for its export promotion targets, especially to other African countries.

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”But overall, we need to add value to our main exports like coffee, tea and even our leather for export,” Mr Wabuyele said, adding that with a clear value addition programme, EPC believes its planned promotional activities in Morocco, Tunisia and Nigeria will bear fruits because “these countries can be perfect markets for our tea and coffee.”

The emphasis on value addition as a way of increasing competitiveness of Kenya’s exports has since taken a national angle with the government pronouncing budgetary interventions to promote the concept.

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