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Commodities

Kenya looks to capitalise on storm in Sri Lanka's teacup

The goliath beetle at the centre of the Sri Lanka-Russia spat. PHOTO | COURTESY
The goliath beetle at the centre of the Sri Lanka-Russia spat. PHOTO | COURTESY 

Kenya wants to use the current tea trade spat — triggered by a single insect— between Russia and Sri-Lanka to boost its volumes to Moscow after years of low exports.

Wire agencies reported on Friday that Russia would place temporary restrictions on imports of tea and all other agricultural products from Sri Lanka from Tuesday after a single beetle was found in a consignment.

Tea directorate says it sees the current impasse between the two countries as an opportunity for Kenya to boost sales.

“We see this as an opportunity and a challenge at the same time. An opportunity in the sense that we should use this chance to grow our volumes to Russia and also learn from the misfortune that befell Sri-Lanka to improve our standards,” said the directorate.

Improve volumes

The country has over the last one year been working on a strategy to improve the volumes of tea bought by Russia and cut the dominance of Sri Lanka, which is the leading exporter to Moscow.

Kenyan delegation led by Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture will be visiting Moscow in January for the launch of the strategy.

Kenya is, third placed, both in terms of value and volume of tea exports to Russia.

Moscow imports about 13 per cent of the beverage from the Mombasa auction accounting for about 18 million kilos, but the volumes have been dropping in the last three years.

“We are targeting to hit at least 44 million kilos of tea exported to Russia in the next three years mainly looking at increasing quality black tea,” said the directorate. 

Russian consultants

It has hired Russian consultants to provide intelligence on the profile of a Russian tea consumer and how best Kenya can reach its market.

Kenya has identified and prioritised Russia because it is the leading importer of black tea while it is the leading exporter of the same.

It will be tough for Kenya to win over the Russian market because Sri Lanka — being the biggest exporter of tea to Russia — has put in massive resources in the last 20 years to cement its position.

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