Kenya’s “Tea Diplomacy” Shines at the Confluence of the Niles
Among the news of conflict in East Africa, here is a story of success and prosperity in Sudanese-Kenyan relations
Press Writer on African Affairs
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A beautiful day witnessed the gathering of the “Tea People” from Kenya and Sudan at the confluence of the Blue and White Niles in Khartoum for the “Kenya Tea Business Forum” event organized by the Tea Board of Kenya (TBK) together with Sudan’s partners.
The forum, held at the EWA Hotel on 3 February 2022, discussed several issues related to the tea trade and industry between Sudan and Kenya, the most significant of which was finally resolved after the conclusion of the five-year study, adopting the three years for the shelf life standard within Sudanese rules and regulations.
Highlighting the benefits of trade and commercial relations between Sudan and Kenya, Kenyan Ambassador to Sudan, Mr. Ngewa Mukala, explained how the two economies of the two countries have the best potential for integration.
The former Sudanese ambassador to Kenya Saddig Elias briefed the participants on the start of talks between Sudan and Kenya to resolve the 18-month limit of the shelf life that was imposed earlier by Sudanese authorities but the two parties involved in talks to fill the gap by exceptions till finally the issue was solved.
In her speech, Rahba Mohamad, Deputy Director-General of the Sudan Standards and Metrology Organization (SSMO), confirmed that Kenyan tea is eligible for a three-year shelf life based on a five-year study, and the Sudanese side will follow new regulations and rules to make this situation is legalized, “We just have some local standards and procedures for Sudanese packaging companies and we are already in the process of developing them”, Rahba said.
Kenya has very strong ties with several countries based on the tea trade. In addition, the tea auction in the Kenyan city port of Mombasa became the capital of tea prices in East Africa and the lakes region. Kenya has a new kind of diplomacy in the region and the world, we can call it “tea diplomacy”.
Tea is the main cash crop and the country’s main source of foreign exchange earnings. Kenya’s tea sector is at the level of Kenya’s top national interest and is subject to oversight and control by government and private institutions and bodies.
TBK CEO Ms. Peris Mudida addressed the event appreciating the level of cooperation between the two countries until the end of the study and the achievement of the goal. TBK is Kenya’s leading agency that licenses and registers tea factories, growers, exporters, packers, and all players in the Kenyan tea industry. TBK also conducts tea research through its technical arm, the Kenya Tea Research Foundation.
Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) was represented at the event by D.G. Dr. Eliud Kireger. KALRO’s mission is to accelerate equitable access to research information, resources, and technologies and to promote the application of research results and technologies in Kenyan agriculture. Its mission also includes conducting agricultural research to promote sustainable growth and development of Kenya’s agriculture and livestock industries.
Dr. Kireger said that experts from both sides did their best to complete the study that would ultimately facilitate the tea trade between countries.
Kenyan teas are of a very competitive standard as they are processed using a cycle of picking young and fresh leaves and buds.
Esther Ngari, the representative of the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), spoke at the event and explained important points of the research carried out by both Kenya and Sudan.
The problem started in early 2015 when the SSMO revised the shelf life from three years to one and a half years, which was beyond the most reasonable and scientifically-proven standard.
The recent business trip by the Kenyan tea delegation was fruitful, as Kenyan tea would have no obstacles entering the Sudanese market as the two countries finalized the joint study on the actual shelf life of the commodity.
Sudan is ranked the 7th largest importer of Kenyan tea after Pakistan, Egypt, the UK, Afghanistan, UAE, and Russia with total imports of more than 20 million kilos of tea from Kenya.
Hashim Khidir, chairman of the Sudan-Kenya Friendship Organization, said that Sudan’s importance as an importer of Kenyan tea is not only being among the top five or seven importers but also because Sudan is dependent on Kenyan tea while other countries have different sources to import tea.