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Concern as 41pc of tea at Mombasa unsold

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A worker loading tea for auction and export. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Over 41 percent of Kenya’s tea taken to Mombasa sale in March went unsold, leaving sellers with a growing pile of unsold consignments.

Data from the Africa Tea Brokers (ATB) shows sellers presented 72.08 million kilogrammes of Kenya’s tea to the auction last month but only 42.35 million kilogrammes were sold, an equivalent of 41.2 percent.

The pain of unsold tea has worsened from last year, when 37.3 percent of the produce failed to attract buyers during sales held in March 2023.

“Following the smallholders’ removal of minimum price level for teas manufactured earlier than June 2023, the month’s sales witnessed a fairly large weight of these teas being bought albeit sluggishly in the first two sales but later gaining momentum with significantly improved absorption in Sales 12 and 13,” said ATB.

Four auctions were held last month, bringing together teas from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Madagascar, Tanzania, and Burundi, with average offerings of 20.26 million kilogrammes per auction compared to 20.35 million kilogrammes in February.

The minimum price of $2.43 (Sh315.86) per kilogramme has been problematic since it was introduced by the government in July 2021.

But because teas especially from the East and West of the Rift Valley fetch different prices in the market, buyers have shunned those they consider of lesser quality.

Last month, Investments Promotion Principal Secretary Abubakar Hassan acknowledged that the minimum price had brought “unintended consequences” and promised to reverse the policy.