Photographer: Trevor Snapp/Bloomberg

World's Biggest Tea Exporter Seeks to Double Sales to Russia

  • Kenya plans shipments of 44 million kilograms by 2020
  • Russia imported 152 million kilograms of tea in 2016

Kenya, the world’s biggest black tea exporter, plans to double annual shipments to Russia to 44 million kilograms within three years, according to its Agriculture and Food Authority. 

Russia bought more than 152 million kilograms of tea last year. Kenya provided 18 million kilograms of that, almost a fifth lower than 2015 sales. About 1 million kilograms of the exports was orthodox tea.

“We are putting in place strategies for all our main markets,” said Samuel Ogola, the interim head of Kenya’s tea directorate. “Russia has been one of our major export markets and one of the world’s largest importer of tea, but the values have been going down in the past few years.”

Orthodox, which is popular in Russia, Iran and Western Europe, is a specialty product made from black tea that’s processed by traditional methods of withering, rolling and oxidization, while regular black tea is manufactured through machines that crush, tear and curl the leaves.

Kenya produced a record 473 million kilograms in 2016. The higher output has forced it to find ways of increasing its share of the global market, Ogola said in an interview in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. “We are in the process of creating strategies to grow our markets in Iran, Sudan, China and Japan.”

Only Sri Lanka and India surpass Kenyan tea exports to Russia, according to Natalya Zhivaya, a public relations officer at CROS, a Russian consulting company hired by Kenyan tea authorities to formulate a three-year market plan. 

“Kenya produces good quality and has all the characteristics that the Russian market wants,” Zhivaya said in an interview in Nairobi.

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