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Kenya marks its tea

NAIROBI, Kenya Jun 30 – The profile of Kenyan tea in the international market is set to rise following the launch of an identity mark that distinguishes it from other tea growing nations.

This follows the launch of the Kenyan tea ‘Mark of Origin’ to be attached to export and locally consumed tea by the Tea Board of Kenya.

Speaking during the launch on Wednesday, the Tea Board of Kenya Managing Director Sicily Kariuki said the introduction of the mark of origin is geared towards enhancing the profile of Kenyan tea ultimately resulting in the development of the tea sub sector.

“As a means of branding the mark of origin will strengthen the identification of Kenya as an origin of high quality tea while giving consumers information on the distinctiveness of Kenyan tea,” Mrs Kariuki said.

She said there is need for stakeholders in the tea industry to adopt value addition for Kenyan tea arguing it will give it an edge in the global market leading to increased earnings.

Currently, close to 94 percent of Kenyan tea is exported in bulk form leaving only six percent to undergo value addition in the country.

Mrs Kariuki highlighted this had resulted in Kenyan tea becoming a hidden beverage as consumers could not identify Kenya as a source of high quality tea.

“Other countries we compete with do close to 50 percent value addition on their tea so we should be talking of increasing this to 30 percent in the next three years,” Ministry of Agriculture PS Dr Romano Kiome said.

Dr Kiome said the sub-sector has over the years been hit by numerous challenges that have curtailed faster growth key among them value addition and lack of other tea varieties.

“International consumers are slowly changing their preference from our traditional black CTC tea to green, flavoured and ready to drink tea,” he said adding the government was committed to investing in tea research to boost competitiveness.

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Also speaking during the launch, Tea Board of Kenya Chairman Titus Kipyab said over concentration on five key source markets was potentially risky for the fortunes of the industry.

“We sell 75 percent of our tea to the UK, Egypt, Pakistan, Sudan and Afghanistan which is very risky should anything happen to our bilateral agreements,” he said.

With the increased visibility of Kenyan tea, it is expected that the industry will realise higher returns across the value chain.

Wet weather conditions at the start of the year saw tea production for the first quarter of 2010 to jump 69 percent to 111.7 million kilograms.

According to Mrs Kariuki, projections for the first half of the year look bright with anticipation of a 15 percent increase in production from 2009.

“We have however gotten to a slowdown now, the temperatures in the tea producing areas have come down significantly and will run on for the next few months,” she said.

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