Intra-Africa trade offers tea farmers golden opportunity

A woman and her husband at their small-scale tea farm in Kiambu County. [Courtesy]

Intra-Africa trade presents a big opportunity for Kenyan smallholder tea farmers to secure an additional market and improve their income.

According to Central Bank of Kenya figures, Africa accounted for only 19.4 per cent of Kenya's Sh827.2 billion total trade value in the first three months of 2023, a slight growth compared to 18.3 per cent in 2022.

With about 1.4 billion people, Africa presents a huge market opportunity for our tea. Better still, Africa's population is projected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050. Since assuming office, President William Ruto and his administration have held engagements with several African nations on matters trade.

The President has taken a leading role in championing removal of trade barriers among African countries to ease movement of goods, services and labour. Kenya's profile at continental level has since, improved immensely. This is good news to our smallholder tea farmer. Kenya's tea subsector can tap into this improved visibility to market local tea within the continent.

At the global market, Kenyan tea is highly sought after and is commonly used to blend teas sourced from other countries.

There is no reason why African consumers should not get an opportunity to enjoy our quality beverage especially when so doing will result in better returns for farmers.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) provides an opportunity for Kenya to market her tea to other African countries. Smallholder farmers affiliated to the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) have begun utilising the AfCTFA opportunity.

In October last year, KTDA through its subsidiary, Ketepa, flagged off a consignment of assorted value-added teas worth over Sh15 million headed to Ghana.

There are plans to export over Sh100 million worth of packed tea to West Africa annually. Selling value added tea will earn the farmer more compared to selling before value addition. Additionally, value addition is in line with Tea Act 2020 which seeks to ensure value added tea makes up at least 40 per cent of all the tea exported.

Trade with Ghana is part of the AfCFTA Initiative on Guided Trade, a pilot programme that seeks to fast-track intra-Africa trade. Under this initiative, importers will have a facilitated trade process and enjoy preference in reduction of the tariff.

Kenya Kwanza administration's Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) seeks to transform lives of Kenyans especially those at the bottom.

The agenda would receive a huge boost were the over 650,000 smallholder farmers to secure an additional market. The government has pledged to support the tea sector secure new markets and streamline operations for the benefit of all in the tea value chain, especially the smallholder farmer.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has led several field and boardroom engagements with tea stakeholders as part of farmer-centred reforms aimed at streamlining production and sale of tea. There is no doubt that intra-Africa trade provides a huge market for smallholder tea farmers.

The writer is CEO of Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA)

By AFP 3 hrs ago
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