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Kebs to test tea headed for Sudan

Kebs managing director Charles Ongwae. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Kebs managing director Charles Ongwae. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) will take over the testing of consignments of tea destined for the Sudanese market as part of a deal to end feuds on quality.

Kebs managing director Charles Ongwae said officials had been posted to Mombasa to conduct tests on tea meant for Sudan.

The inspection was previously carried out by private firms.

“We have finalised everything and Kebs will start issuing certificates of conformity to traders exporting tea to Sudan in the next few days. This is what Sudan wanted us to do,” Mr Ongwae said in an interview Tuesday.

He said that Kebs will charge traders Sh5,000 per inspected consignment compared to the Sh70,000 levied by private firms.

Kenya is at loggerheads with Sudan over the shelf life of its tea, a situation that has threatened trade with the country — one of the top 10 buyer of the commodity.

The Sudan Standards and Metrology Organisation (SSMO) in 2015 revised the shelf life of tea from three years to one- and-a-half.

Khartoum however granted Kenya a special waiver to continue tea shipments into its market awaiting the outcome of a joint research on the actual shelf life of the commodity.

But even as the waiver applied, Sudan maintained that the tea consignments imported from Kenya be tested comprehensively, preferably by the national standards regulator, to guarantee consumers’ safety.

The Tea Directorate said that a recent meeting with stakeholders had endorsed Kebs to test all tea consignments headed for Sudan. An official at the directorate said a Kenyan delegation will travel to Sudan in January for further discussions to resolve the stalemate.

Kenya is the world’s leading exporter of black tea and the commodity is a major foreign exchange earner.

Biting drought in the first six months of this year cut tea production by 20 per cent to 200.9 million kilos compared with the previous year, data from the state-run Agriculture and Food Authority shows.

Kenya’s tea exports also dropped to 221.1 million kilos in the period to the end of June, from 257.7 million kilos during a similar period last year.