Bomet has told tea worth Sh27.7 million ($252,000) to Iran, fetching Sh90 per kilogramme more than the current price at the Mombasa Tea Auction, the county has said.
Governor Hillary Barchok says tea from farmers’ cooperatives in the region was sold for Sh330 ($3) per kg, above the current average price of Sh235 ($2.18) a kilo at the auction.
According to the county, 84 metric tonnes of tea was shipped to Tehran in June after Dr Barchok announced that they had entered a deal with an Iranian buyer for direct exports of the beverage as it sought to improve growers’ earnings.
At the time, the move was protested by the Agriculture ministry, which through tea reforms, had banned the direct sales of tea to the international market and ordered that it should be sold through the auction in Mombasa.
But a High Court ruling in Bomet in May blocked the full implementation of the Tea Act 2020, barring direct sale of tea to export markets.
On Sunday, Dr Barchok, Kenyan ambassador to Iran Moses Gathimu and his Iranian counterpart in Kenya Jaffar Barmaki unveiled the consignment in Tehran. They were accompanied by Sinedet Cooperative Society director Peter Nyige and Joshua Terer of Mau Tea Cooperative Society.
“We are happy to have secured a new market for the produce, and we are currently working on the export details for the next batch of tea from Bomet,” said Mr Nyige.
On Monday, from Tehran, Dr Barchok told Business Daily that his administration was seeking to facilitate farmers to sell their tea to Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), whose market has yet to be exploited by the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA).
“With 55,000 hectares under tea plantations, 16 tea factories processing over 350,000 of black CTC tea per year and employing 100,000 workers, directly and indirectly, the sector generates Sh9 billion annually in the county and there is a huge potential to double the earnings,” said Dr Barchok.
Black CTC tea is processed through a cutting, tearing and curling machine.
“We have agreed on a working arrangement to expand our tea market through strategic alliance to assist in marketing the produce in Iran and other destinations around the world, and particularly to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU),” he said.
Mr Gathimu said Iran offers a huge market potential for Kenyan tea.
“I reported to my station six months ago, and I can say with confidence that there is an untapped market potential for tea and coffee in Iran. The deal secured by Bomet County is a major milestone which should be fully exploited,” said the Kenyan envoy.
Iranian ambassador to Kenya Mr Barmaki, said: “We are committed to this process. We have kept our promise, and the trade deal has been realised. This is just the beginning; we have a long way to go.”
Bomet has not disclosed the details of the Iranian buyers, with Dr Barchok distancing his administration from the handling of the sale proceeds.
“As a county government, we are not engaged in selling of goods as our function is only to facilitate the business community and farmers (through cooperative societies) to add value to their fresh farm produce and access markets locally and internationally,” he said when asked to provide details of the deal.
“Being a tea-growing county, we seek to build and expand our trade portfolio by leveraging our competitive advantage, especially in agro-processing in what will go a long way in promoting the trade bond between Kenya and Iran,” the governor said.
However, Agriculture secretary Peter Munya termed the deal “fake”, saying neither the Tea Board of Kenya nor KTDA was involved.
“We are not involved in the deal, and the various government agencies have not given it an okay as required. It is only the governor who can shed more light on the sale, if any,” said Mr Munya responding to farmers’ questions at Kaploros tea factory in Bomet a week ago.
He insisted that direct tea sales to international markets would create a loophole for brokers to exploit farmers because they are likely not to disclose full prices to growers, unlike at the tea auction.
But Dr Barchok said efforts to involve the government bore no fruit.
“We presented a memorandum of understanding (between Bomet and Iran) to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that has sat on it for the last one year with no feedback… We made a conscious decision to proceed to the markets without them,” he said.