Kenya’s tea has been spared possible loss of its top market after Pakistan dropped a requirement for rigorous testing for aflatoxin that had created a backlog of consignments destined to the country.
Two weeks ago the Plant Protection Board of Pakistan issued a directive that all tea imports from Kenya must under-go aflatoxin tests, a move Kenya protested saying the fungus is not a common occurrence in its produce.
On February 2 the Pakistan Tea Association said the requirement for aflatoxin tests had been reversed. The association passed the information onto the East African Tea Traders Association (Eatta), the custodian of the Mombasa auction.
“Some progress has been made in that the initial directive requiring sampling and inspection of tea consignments at the Karachi port has been reversed,” said Eatta managing director Edward Mudibo. Pakistan is the leading buyer of Kenyan tea and last year made purchases worth Sh50 billion, representing about 40 per cent of total earnings from the beverage.
The sampling and inspection in Karachi, said Mr Mudibo, was causing a major backlog that at one point saw more than 150 containers stuck at a Pakistan port. Kenyan tea has been at risk with major buyers bringing up issues of standards in the recent past.
Last year, standards dispute on tea between Kenya and Iran threatened sales to the Middle East country.
The dispute resulted from the different standards of accepted level of moisture content in the tea.
Iran has a lower limit of three per cent with an upper limit of eight per cent. Kenya uses the ISO 3720 standard, which does not set a minimum moisture content.
Iran gets the bulk of its tea from India and Sri-Lanka with Kenya supplying about 20 million kilogrammes of the 120 million kilo annual imports.
The country is still tussling with Sudan over the shelf-life of its tea.
The sell-by date of the Kenyan beverage is three years but Sudan wants it to be reduced to one and a half years.
The standoff had an impact on the Kenyan commodity in 2016 with sales to Khartoum dropping 30 per cent.