Kenya’s tea export to Sudan is grappling with the repercussions of the Red Sea crisis, as ships navigate longer routes to evade Houthi missile threats along the channel.

This shift has led to a substantial surge in shipping costs, with the expense of transporting a 40-foot container escalating by 133 percent.

According to tea traders at the Mombasa auction, the current price for a container of tea bound for Khartoum has risen to $3,500, compared to the pre-Israeli-Gaza conflict rate of $1,500.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels, aligned with Iran, have actively targeted commercial vessels in the Red Sea, expressing support for the Palestinian group Hamas in its conflict with Israel.

Peter Kimanga, a Mombasa-based tea trader, highlighted that ships are now compelled to reroute to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa before heading to Khartoum, effectively doubling the traditional route.

“It has become extremely expensive to export tea to Sudan right now because of the Red Sea crisis,” said Mr Kimanga.

The elevated shipping costs have significantly impacted the competitiveness of Kenyan tea in the Sudanese market, according to Mr Kimanga. Sudan, a major export destination for Kenyan tea, typically ranks among the top 10 buyers.

In the face of civil strife, Sudan imported tea worth Ksh2.9 billion last year, ranking eighth among the leading buyers of Kenyan beverage.

This marked a decline from the Ksh4.5 billion purchased in the previous year, underscoring the war’s impact on Kenya’s exports to Sudan.

During the period from January 1 to January 11, ship traffic through the canal witnessed a 30 percent decrease compared to the same period in the preceding year, as reported by the canal authorities.

The number of vessels transiting the Suez Canal dropped from 777 in the equivalent period of 2023 to 544 in the current review period.

The Suez Canal holds paramount importance for Egypt, constituting a vital source of foreign currency and accounting for a significant 30 percent of the global shipping traffic connecting Europe and Asia.

gandae@businessdayafrica.org