A CBI programme is showing a Kenyan tea collective how to add value to its tea before exporting it to Europe.
Victor Biwot, a tea grower in Kenya himself, is full-time operations manager overseeing market and value-addition activities for Sireet Outgrowers, an umbrella organisation representing 6,230 tea growers in Kenya. It started up in 2006, explains Victor, to play a role in the entire tea value chain. “We are doing pretty well too,”he says, “particularly since I started participating in a CBI Export Coaching Programme (ECP) called Value Added Tea and Marketing for Kenyan tea growers.”
In the context of the ECP, which Victor says has a very broad scope, he and his fellow participants have learned about market intelligence, market research and market entry strategies. They are now developing an export-marketing plan and still have market segmentation, market differentiation, product placement and positioning to look forward to.
Sireet Outgrowers exported bulk tea to Europe before Victor started the ECP but the organisation did little in the line of value addition, he explains. “The main focus of the ECP is to export value-added tea. We now produce value-added tea for the domestic market and we are working towards exporting tea to the European market that has already been packaged.”
In the context of the ECP, Victor recently attended COTECA trade fair in Germany, which he insists was very fruitful. There, he learned first-hand from potential clients what their expectations are in terms of how to add value to the product and how they want it packaged. “We also learned that the German tea market has a preference for orthodox black tea and that speciality teas like green tea are very popular.” They also visited a nearby tea-packaging company where three managers explained how they could make their tea more attractive for the German market.
Victor is very pleased with the support Sireet Outgrowers has received from CBI. “Before starting the ECP we didn’t know we could add value to our tea and it’s entirely thanks to CBI that we now do so.” He is also appreciative of the support extended by local CBI expert Phoebe Owuor. “In addition to providing the initial ECP training, Phoebe helped make it possible for us to attend the trade fair. “CBI knows the types of trade fairs and trade missions that will benefit us the most and has provided invaluable support in this area.”
Victor concedes that he and Sireet Outgrowers never imagined that they would be able to supply value-added tea to European supermarkets, which, thanks to CBI support, they are now on their way to so doing. “Once again, thanks to CBI we now have a much better understanding of how the market works and what it wants. The ECP finishes next year but I wish it could continue for another two or three years,” he enthuses.