(Bloomberg) -- Kenya, the world’s largest exporter of black tea, has agreed a partnership with Lipton Teas & Infusions BV to improve leaf quality in the country and fetch higher prices for farmers, President William Ruto said in an interview.

The East African nation is shifting its focus to quality from quantity of tea produced, and Lipton — the world’s biggest tea buyer — will research tea varieties and other aspects of the crop, he said. The government also plans to remove taxes on packaging material for tea.

“Our strategy is to increase farmer incomes,” Ruto said. “We need to support the farmers to do tea farming correctly, in an innovative, scientific manner and in a manner that respects the ESGs,” he added, referring to environmental and sustainability best-practices.

Kenya’s cumulative output for first eleven months of 2023 rose 8% from a year earlier to 515.9 million kilograms, according to the industry regulator. The average auction price during the period was $2.24 per kilogram, compared to $2.49 per kilogram a year ago. 

Lipton, which buys half of all its teas from Kenya, has invested 500 million shillings ($3.43 million) in a tea innovation and technology academy at a local university in one of the main growing regions. It’s part of a plan to boost sustainable production of the leaf, the quality of tea and farmers’ earnings, Chief Executive Officer Nathalie Roos said in an interview.

“That is a long term commitment from us, as a company and from our shareholders CVC Capital, to transform the industry in depth,” Roos said. “Our ambition is to raise the quality and is to raise the price of tea.”

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