Tea exports to Afghanistan fall Sh536m on upheaval


Workers pluck tea in Nandi Hills, Nandi County. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Political upheaval in Afghanistan witnessed this year wiped out Sh536 million worth of Kenyan tea exports to the country, as the volume plummeted by 52 percent.

Data from the Tea Directorate shows that the earnings from the commodity fell from Sh283million in the eight months to August from Sh824 million in the corresponding period last year.

The volume of tea exported to Afghan dropped to 1.3 million in review period from 3.8 million kilogrammes in the similar period last year.

The biggest decline was seen in July, when US and British troops were preparing to vacate Kabul, Afghanistan's capital city and the government ended up being overthrown by Taliban fighters.

The return of the Taliban some 20 years since they were toppled from power by US-led forces meant that business was likely to be disrupted, especially after they closed borders to prevent locals from fleeing the country.

Kenya’s exports to Afghanistan have been declining significantly over the last five years – from highs of about Sh14 billion in 2012 to Sh2.3 billion last year—as the US cut back its military presence in the Asian nation amid a rising offensive by the Taliban.

Last year, Kenya’s tea exports to Afghanistan stood at 4.195 million kilogrammes, worth Sh902 million, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade.

The East African Tea Traders Association (Eatta) said Afghanistan is however still getting access to Kenyan tea through Pakistan, which is the leading buyer of Kenya’s tea.

Kenya’s other exports to Afghanistan include coffee, mate, spices, pharmaceuticals, rubber, textile, edible vegetables, and machinery.

Overall, Kenya’s tea export earnings for the eight months to August reflected a drop of 5.8 percent to Sh88.5 billion ($801 million) compared to the corresponding period last year, data from the Central Bank of Kenya shows.

The CBK said that the lower comparative earnings this year are as a result of accelerated purchases in the second quarter of 2020, where tea importers bulked up on the produce on fears of supply problems due to Covid restrictions and lockdowns.