Kenya Plans Iran Tea Mission As US Row Rages

8 January 2020

Kenya will next month send its third tea trade mission to Iran in the last four years as it seeks to retain the Tehran market despite mounting challenges resulting from US sanctions.

The director general of Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) Anthony Muriithi said the Kenyan delegation will head to Iran next month to solidify the Asian market amid sanctions that have nearly made trade between Kenya and Iran impossible.

The mission comes at a time when there are heightened tensions after the US killed an Iranian military commander in a missile strike in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, raising fears of war breaking out in the region.

Iran remains one of the Kenya's key markets and it pays a premium price for local tea, a move that has seen the country conduct several trade missions in defence of the market.

"Iran remains one of our key markets and the demand for the beverage is still high in that country," said Mr Muriithi.

In 2017, Kenya sent a delegation to Iran to promote the country's beverage by seeking more buyers of the commodity. This was followed by another last November.

Because of the sanctions imposed by the US, tea destined to Iran has to pass through a third party country (either in Europe or Dubai), and so are the payments as most banks are scared of trading with Tehran directly for fears of reprisal from the US.

Mr Muriithi said selling tea through a third party was an expensive affair for traders and it would be better if the trade can be done directly.

Kenya's delegation will be meeting with both government officials and members of the Iranian Tea Association.

The latest sanctions imposed on Iranian Central Bank has made buyers weary of selling their commodity to Iran because of the expected delayed payment occasioned by the sanctions.

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