[24th January 2011]


From left to right; Mr. Kenji Kataoka - Vice Chairman, Japan Tea Association, H.E. Ambassador Mr. Benson Otutu, Mr. Mohan Chutani - Embassy of India, Ms. Roselynn Mapun Duca - Embassy of the Republic of Malawi, Mr. Kenji Kasuga - Ministry of Agriculture - Forestry and Fisheries, Mr. Yasuyuki Abe - Chairman, Japan Tea Association.

The Japan Tea Association held its New Year party on the 14th January where his H.E the Ambassador of Kenya was invited as Chief Guest.

The Japan Tea Association established in 1939, currently has 51 members. Its membership comprises of importers, distributors, retailers and other tea related companies. JTA is involved in tea sales promotion, education and the coordination of information flow between the government of Japan, local government, international tea organizations and its members on tea related issues. JTA also organizes tea seminars all over Japan to promote tea consumption.

JTA has been instrumental in assisting Kenya tea gain market access in Japan and there is greater potential not only to increase more imports but also to explore investment opportunity in Kenya.

In his keynote speech the Ambassador appreciated the cordial relation between JTA and the Embassy. He observed that the interactions have continued to bear more and more fruits. In January 2009 JTA made its inaugural visit to Kenya and sampled the tea industry. Since then, imports of Kenyan tea into Japan have increased substantially. Notable to mention, one of the biggest restaurant chains in Japan, Zensho Company started importing Kenya tea. The company now serves Kenya tea at their drink bars and also sells tea bags. In their first year, imports amounted to over 4 tons and they expect to grow every year.

The Ambassador mentioned that Tea houses in Tokyo such as Lupicia and Lipton are selling 100% Kenyan tea. JTA’s promotional efforts have also resulted in penetration of other prefectures notably: Chiba, Saitama, Osaka and Hiroshima. His Excellency thanked JTA and individual importers/distributors of Kenyan tea for this positive development. Kenya he emphasized would like this to be replicated in many more prefectures.

Data indicate that the volume of instant tea from Kenya to Japan increased from 519, 445kgs in 2005 to 763, 245kgs in 2009; Bulk tea on the other hand has increased from 1,018,698kgs in 2005 to 1,579,211kgs in 2009. The volume of packaged tea leaves has gone from 31,229kgs in 2005 to 28,379kgs in 2009.

His Excellency informed that Kenya has grown into a formidable tea producer currently ranking third in the world. It is the leading tea exporter in the world with a record volume of 342 million kgs sold to over 50 international destinations in 2009. The country prides itself as the best producer of black tea with her market share being estimated at about 27% of the world’s tea trade. Apart from black tea, Kenya also manufactures limited amounts of green and orthodox tea.

Kenya tea is unique in many ways. Planting materials released to growers are carefully selected by Kenyan scientists to ensure only high quality, high yielding and pest and diseases resistance elite clones are planted. The result is that Kenya tea is natural and pure as no pesticides or other chemicals are used. To ensure maximum quality and cup per unit weight, only the choicest of the upper two leaves are hand-plucked. This is followed by skillful manufacture under stringent conditions. In addition, the tropical, volcanic soils rich in nutrients give the tea a unique flavor and character.

The Ambassador explained that the difference between all types of teas commercially available internationally is dictated by the method of processing. Most Kenyan teas are manufactured using the cut, tear and curl (CTC) method of manufacture. Tea made by CTC method has more infusion giving surfaces and brews stronger, thicker, brighter and brisk tea, which ensure maximum cup page per unit weight.

Kenyan tea has also consistently been certified as meeting the highest standards set by various world bodies. Almost all factories in Kenya have ISO Certification 22000.

About 60 percent of the tea in Kenya is produced by small-scale farmers. The Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), the body in charge of collecting and processing the tea leaves, sells it on behalf of the small-scale tea growers through the Mombasa Auction. The Mombasa Auction has become a world re-knowned tea market centre for East and Central Africa tea producing countries. Over 85% of Kenyan tea is sold through this centre which is the second largest auction in the world.

In May 2010 KTDA was named an honoree of the Rainforest Alliance. The Rainforest Alliance is an International nonprofit organization focused on sustainable farming, forestry and tourism. It honours companies that make bold commitments to sustainability that improves livelihoods and conserve biodiversity on the ground. By the close of 2009, KTDA had achieved Rainforest Alliance certification on more than 38,000 of its smallholder tea farms. This development has truly benefited the agency, farmers and factory employees. Today, KTDA’s rainforest Alliance Certified tea is commanding a higher price, workers and farmers have critical safety equipment and employees and farmers now understand the very real value of soil, water and wildlife conservation.

Tea plays an important role as the economy’s main anchor. It is the largest sub-sector in the agriculture sector. There are over 3 million Kenyans directly and indirectly employed by the tea industry. This is approximately 10% of Kenya’s population.

Traditionally Kenya tea has been sold to the market in bulk form and is much sought after by leading tea companies to blend and add taste to the most respected tea brands in the world. Of the 40% of all global tea bags, at least 10% of their contents is Kenyan. There is now an emerging vibrant value-added sub-sector, led by the Tea Packers Association, which aims to provide consumers worldwide with pure Kenyan branded teas, blended at source.

The tea sub-sector currently offers a number of investment opportunities for those wishing to invest in the industry. Some of these include investment in tea plantations and processing and packaging of tea for export under the Manufacturing Under Bond (MUB) or the Export Processing Zones programmes.

The attractiveness of Kenya as an investment location for the tea sub-sector is further strengthened by the presence of big multinationals operating in the sector in Kenya. Some of these include Unilever Tea (K) Ltd. (previously Brooke Bond), James Finlay (K) Ltd., Williamson’s Tea (K) Ltd., etc. However, Japanese presence is still lacking. Towards this end, the Embassy will continue working closely with the JTA to ensure that Japanese prospective investors also gain a foothold in Kenya in the tea sub-sector.

In this regard, some of the available investment opportunities include:

Value addition is today being driven by consumer choice and this is encouraging tea firms to look into new ways to add value to their teas.

Packing tea into tea bags in many forms has become popular because of convenience and it can be considered as an effective form of value addition. Selection of environmentally friendly packing materials, which are bio-degradable, recyclable and re-usable, has become a favourable factor.

Flavouring of tea using natural mixtures of spices, herbs and extracts in liquid or granulate form has become very popular in most of the market segments of speciality teas. Strong artificial flavours are also used widely to flavour conventional teas.

Ready to drink teas have great potential in both the local and export markets. Ready to drink teas can substitute popular carbonated drinks in the market based on awareness of the beneficial heath factors. The ready to drink teas therefore have great market potential. His Excellency called on JTA to encourage its members to explore the opportunities available in value addition.

The Ambassador concluded by inviting the JTA membership to the first African Tea Convention and Exhibition to be held on the 20th to 22nd July 2011 in Mombasa. The event organized by the East Africa Tea Trade Association will provide unrivalled opportunities to interact with industry experts, researchers and scholars, financiers and investors, logistic and warehousing experts, tea packers and retailers, shippers and freight Agents, commodity traders, tea brokers, tea value adders & blenders, world tea leaders and technology experts and other inputs suppliers manufactures, support service providers and other stakeholders within the entire value chain.

Cutting edge technology, best practices, recent research findings and studies, innovations, crop husbandry, outstanding tea clones and blends to mention but a few will be showcased at this auspicious African Tea Event. Suffice it to add, this fair is the only platform to promote and facilitate global trade, new product launch and to motivate the tea and coffee markets.

The Ambassador reiterates the Kenya Embassy’s desire to forge even close partnership with the JTA in the promotion of Kenya tea in the Japanese market.

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