How Kenya can create value for all players in the tea industry

A tea farmer affiliated with Gathuthi Tea Factory in Tetu Nyeri picking tea on her farm. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Kenya’s tea industry holds immense potential not only as a significant contributor to the economy but also as a catalyst for positive change in employees, smallholder farmers and industry players.

Despite tea being second only to water, it captures a mere 6 per cent of its value while coffee captures 15 per cent. A cup of coffee in the UK or Europe fetches a higher price than tea, but this is great opportunity for tea. It is therefore imperative to transform the supply chain, breathe new life into the tea industry and ensure the benefits reach all stakeholders.

One crucial avenue lies in the adoption of premium and sustainable practices. The teas we sell must meet high-quality standards and embody environmentally and socially conscious principles. By doing so, we not only contribute to a healthier planet but also pave the way for increased commercial success.

Quality, taste and overall consumer experience are paramount in commanding a premium price for tea. This, in turn, directly benefits the farmer. Our commitment to providing these attributes creates a ripple effect, generating more value for tea and establishing its significance in people's lives.

To drive demand for Kenyan tea, we must articulate a holistic narrative that transforms the entire tea category, creating commercial value and ensuring sustained growth. Our focus is on promoting the superiority of Kenyan origin in our Lipton teas, a move backed by President William Ruto. As the top global and Kenyan tea buyer, we aim to elevate industry standards in quality, environment, and social aspects.

While we remain steadfast in our commitment to social amenities and community investments, it is crucial to showcase them as industry standards. These initiatives should be positioned not just as benevolent acts but as integral components of delivering high-quality and premium tea for which Kenya should be known for.

Lipton Teas and Infusions invests in initiatives that span education, water, environment, health, and hygiene. The commitment to creating value for all, including communities, underscores the inspiration behind sustained investments that promote social and economic inclusion. 

The industry's potential to impart knowledge and life skills, including healthy living practices, strategic investments, and environmental conservation, can significantly enhance the well-being of communities. Collaborative efforts with communities to rehabilitate and restore forests demonstrate a commitment to sustainability practices.

As the tea industry moves towards producing high-quality tea that commands a premium price, it creates more value that ultimately benefits the community. This commitment positions the tea industry as a model for fostering inclusive development, leaving no one behind. We are currently working with other tea industry players and stakeholders on an industry-wide standard that will further elevate the value of tea and its impact on communities.

In addition, it is also a shared commitment to set an example for other industries demonstrating what the country has to offer in terms of top-quality products and exemplary social standards.

Mr Odire is Country General Manager, LIPTON Teas and Infusions Kenya PLC

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