NEW YORK | NAIROBI - Kenya’s tea planters are in for a much-needed lift with or without caffeine as trade with one the world’s 10 biggest tea-consuming nations comes on line.
East African tea exports to Iran are expected to jump more than fivefold by 2019 as trade with the Persian Gulf nation normalizes after western sanctions are lifted, a regional tea traders’ association said.
Shipments from nations including Kenya, the world’s biggest exporter of black tea, may climb to 20,000 metric tons within the next four years from a record low of 3,200 tons last year, said Edward Mudibo, managing director of the East African Trade Association.
“The potential for the Iran market could be five-fold the current status without the restrictions there had been over the past five years,” Mudibo said in a phone interview Wednesday from the port city of Mombasa.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization statistics, Iranian tea consumption was estimated at 83,400 tons in 2013. Financial and trade sanctions imposed by the U.S. and European countries because of its nuclear program curbed access to foreign currency and limited Iranian buyers’ ability to transact. That posed “payment challenges” to East African tea exporters from Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, Mudibo said.
Most of the tea produced in East Africa is sold at the Mombasa auction, the world’s largest market for the leaves. The weekly sale handled 791 million pounds in 2015, compared with 390.2 million kilos a year earlier, according to data compiled by Tea Brokers East Africa Ltd., a Mombasa-based trader of the crop. It competes with the next largest auction in Sri Lanka, which traded 315.5 million kilos of tea last year, compared with 333.5 million kilos in 2014, according to data e-mailed by the Sri Lanka Tea Board.
“Iran seeks good quality tea which our auctions are known for,” Mudibo said. “We are looking at a conservative 16,000 tons, but we could go up to a range of 20,000 tons, which we can safely ship without much effort.” [International Press Syndicate – 16 February 2016]
Photo: Kenya tea picker