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US company to sell Kenyan specialty tea in America

A worker picks tea in Kericho. File photo | nmg
A worker picks tea in Kericho. File photo | nmg 

Local producers of specialty tea will now enjoy a ready market in the US after the regulator and an international tea-buying firm struck a deal to purchase all tea for distribution in America.

International Tea Importers (ITI), an American tea buyer, and the Tea Directorate will oversee the export of purple tea to the US, a big boost at a time when Kenya is trying to expand its market for the produce.

The directorate will help ITI with the policy issues as it offers farmers a ready market.

“We have the capacity to buy all the purple tea from farmers and we are going to do that so long as it meets the required standards,” said Dhaval Shah, chief marketing officer ITI.

Mr Shah met with Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett last week during the ongoing coffee symposium in Seattle where ITI got an assurance of the government’s support in facilitating the trade.

Kenya is currently producing 10 million kilogrammes of purple tea in seven licensed factories located in different parts of the country.

The country is introducing purple tea in the market as a way of boosting farmers’ earnings by cutting overreliance on black CTC tea, whose price has been volatile over the years.

A kilogramme of purple tea is sold at Sh1,957 compared to Sh280 average for black CTC at the Mombasa auction. 

Kenya is the leading exporter of black tea in the world with 95 per cent of the produce destined for the world market.

Head of Tea Directorate Sam Ogola says the move by ITI comes as farmers have started increasing the volumes of the purple tea owing to its good returns.

“The beauty with this is that Kenya is the only country in the world that grows purple tea and having a ready market for growers, with a good price on top, is a good motivation for producers to increase their production,” said Mr Ogola.

ITI will purchase tea from growers and store it in its warehouses across the US for distribution to wholesalers.  The firm has 25 stores across all the major cities in America.

Mr Shah says ITI will send a tea expert to Kenya to work with farmers to ensure that the tea they produce meets the required standards.

“We want to pay the best price, but again, the quality of tea that we are buying has to meet the required market standards that is why we shall be sending our tea master to Kenya to work closely with farmers,” he said.

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