The United Kingdom has said it will have a free hand to sign better deals with Kenya once it completes its exit from the European Union.
UK High Commissioner to Kenya Nic Hailey said that without the restrictions that go with membership to a trading bloc like the EU, Britain would negotiate “better and lucrative” agricultural produce deals with Kenya.
“Once the process of exiting is complete the UK will negotiate new trade deals with Kenya, especially for agricultural products including tea and flowers, which we expect will be better for the country,” he said when he visited Unilever Kenya offices in Mombasa.
Britain voted to exit the EU last June, sending shockwaves across markets and setting in motion a process that would see the country renegotiate individual trade pacts.
Anxiety has been growing in Kenya over the future partnership with the UK, one of the top exports market for its mainly agricultural exports.
On the other hand Kenya, like many developing states, has been apprehensive of the reciprocal agricultural deals that the EU has insisted on since the bloc started negotiating an economic partnership agreement with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries
The ACP states see such deals as likely to open up their agriculture products to unbridled competition.
Earlier, Mr Hailey paid a visit to Mombasa tea auction, where the UK government through TradeMark East Africa, is investing Sh155 million on automation managed by the East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA).
Mr Hailey noted that the automation, which started in November last year, will increase transparency and reduce time taken in the trading cycle by 65 per cent, which means that farmers will be paid faster.
“Increasing transparency and confidence in the auction will result in an increase in the volume and value of teas traded through the auction system by an estimated 15 per cent,” he said.
The UK is the third largest importer of tea from the region, having imported 45 million kilos in 2015, according to the EATT. The country is also one of the leading investors in the sector in the country, through Unilever Kenya.
Kenya earned Sh120 billion from tea exports last year, down from Sh125 billion in 2015, although these figures are projected to rise to Sh133 billion this year. The earnings were from 473 million kilos, which grew by 18 per cent compared to 399 million kilos in 2015.