Kenya will continue trading with Iran even after threats from Washington that it will impose sanctions on countries and firms that trade with Tehran after the US pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran.
Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma said Kenya has got its own interests and it does not take instructions from other States.
President Donald Trump has warned that America will place sanctions against countries or firms that continue to trade with Iran, after Washington pulled out of the deal, a move, if heeded by Nairobi, will affect Kenyan companies selling tea to Iran.
“We do not take instructions from other countries, we know what our interests are and that is what we are sticking to,” said Dr Juma in an interview.
Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) warned in May that the move by the US will hit traders who export tea to the country as they will have difficulties in getting their payments as no bank will be willing to transact business with Iran for fear of the said sanctions.
“We may not be able to export tea to that market because of the sanctions,” AFA said in May in an interview with the Business Daily.
The lifting of the ban in 2016 allowed Kenyan banks to start transacting money with Tehran in what came as a relief to tea traders who had their money stuck in Tehran, however, lenders have been jittery about conducting business with the country, with the recent development likely to worsen the situation.
The local banks were allowed to transact business with Iranian banks to facilitate payment, especially for tea traders but the lenders were hesitant for fear of being blacklisted.
By October last year, Iranian buyers owed local exporters Sh120 million as they faced difficulties in remitting funds.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, which is the UN nuclear watchdog, in 2016 certified Iran was in compliance with the July 2015 agreement on limiting nuclear development, opening the country to trading with banks and companies outside US.
Kenya is targeting Iran as one of the major buyers of its tea and it has since the lifting of the sanctions tried to promote the produce. In October last year, officials from the Tea Directorate visited Iran to promote the commodity.
Iran normally gets the bulk of its tea from India and Sri-Lanka with Kenya supplying about 20 million kilogrammes of the 120 million kilos that Tehran imports annually.
Under the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the United States committed to ease a series of sanctions on Iran and has done so under a string of “waivers” that effectively suspend them.
US sanctions on Iran reimposed following Trump’s withdrawal not only block American firms from doing business in the country, but also bar foreign firms that do business there from accessing the entire US banking and financial system.