Kenya to access Sudan tea market after settling row


A woman picks tea leaves in Nyeri. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The three-year standoff between Kenya and Sudan over the shelf life of tea has been fully resolved, paving the way for increased shipments to one of Kenya’s main markets.

The Tea Board of Kenya says the two countries reached a consensus in 2021 after years of research, which established that tea has a shelf life of three years, coming as a boost to farmers.

Sudan had for long argued that Kenya’s tea shelf life is one and a half years and wanted the country to adhere to that to continue exporting to Khartoum.

“We resolved the matter last year and now our tea can access the Sudanese market without any difficulties,” said James Marete, TBK technical officer.

Tea export volumes to Sudan have not been optimum over the last three years after Khartoum raised concern over the long shelf life of Kenyan beverages.

Fifth largest

However, data from the TBK shows that tea volumes to Sudan jumped 62 percent to 3.1 million kilogrammes against last year when Kenya shipped 1.9 million kilogrammes, making it the fifth-largest buyer of the commodity.

Mr Marete said a technical committee constituted by the two countries agreed to keep the shelf life of tea at three years, thereby settling the issue.

This resolution was reached after three years of research.

The research was conducted by the TBK and Sudan Standards Meteorological Organisation in 2019.

Sell-by date

Tea takes about six months to reach Sudan as it has to go all the way to Cairo, meaning that with the shelf life of 18 months, the beverage would only have a year of sell-by date when it gets to the country.

The TBK says it is looking for new markets, especially in West Africa and diversifying to orthodox teas as the country seeks to cut reliance on the top 10 traditional markets, which account for more than 80 percent of the total exports.

“There is a need to diversify our market and we are looking at other options, especially in Africa,” he said.

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