Kenya has moved to brand its tea to increase its visibility in the global market by launching a mark of origin.
The Kenya Tea Mark of Origin is expected to help raise the levels of tea exported globally and address some key market concerns over the country’s second biggest foreign exchange earner, according to Tea Board of Kenya managing director Sicily Kariuki.
“The thinking is that the mark of origin will brand the Kenyan tea and reinforce its position in the global market. It will also assure the consumer who is seeking the authentic Kenyan tea at local and international markets,” she said.
The mark will also offer a platform for future promotion activities, besides helping to mitigate the effect of counterfeiting and adulteration.Data by the board shows that the country’s production for the first half of the year fell by 16 per cent year-on-year due to hot and dry weather and poorly distributed rainfall in tea growing areas, sending exports lower.
Output of the commodity dropped to 178.4 million kg compared with the same period of 2010, with the east of the Rift Valley more affected than other growing areas. The effects of this thinned output reflected on the export side where shipments fell to 211.7 million kg from 216.9 kg.
The Tea Board of Kenya had by the end of last week received many enquiries from existing and potential tea marketers interested in knowing how they could have the mark on their products.
“As long as what is in the pack bearing our mark is 100 per cent Kenyan tea, distributors can trade with it. But we anticipate the likelihood of a counterfeit mark although we have anti-counterfeit features such as a watermark on our mark of origin,” Ms Kariuki said.
Aware that a 100 per cent Kenyan tea will not easily get space in certain overseas supermarkets, the board is going into direct markets, targeting Kenyans in the diaspora.
Next month, the board will unveil the mark in the US, which has the largest number of the diaspora.
She disclosed that Asia, the country’s largest frontier, will in a few weeks time receive the marked tea at the Dubai Auction. “We have finalised plans to launch the Kenya Tea Mark of Origin at the Dubai Auction, and this is going to be the biggest launch.”
Kenya is the largest exporter of tea in the world, with its product being the most popular for blending varieties from other regions due to its distinct quality and superior taste. Agriculture Minister Sally Kosgey said by developing the mark of identity, Kenya had changed the face of the world tea markets.
“Kenya accounts for 22 per cent of the global tea exports, with 50 international market destinations last year. This is going to change for the better with the mark of origin,” she said.
Kenya becomes the second country after Sri Lanka to mark its product. The Asian country marked its tea some 10 yaers ago.