Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya has ordered a forensic and systems audit to be carried out in all KTDA factories, its subsidiary companies and smallholder tea factories to improve efficiency.
Munya noted that forensic auditors will seek to establish any malpractices such as fraud or embezzlement of funds by the previous board members.
Speaking at Chebut Tea Factory in Kapsabet Town, Nandi County, Munya said the operation, which was expected to take one and a half months, was also aimed at reducing operational costs so that farmers could benefit from their produce.
“The price can be good but as long as the cost of running is high, farmers cannot benefit. That’s why we need the audit report to know which loopholes are supposed to be filled,” he said
The Cabinet Secretary said the audit would also enable the ministry to know if there is need for downsizing and restructuring at KTDA companies.
The tea sub- sector is very important in Kenya as it supports over 6 million Kenyans directly and indirectly.
According to the recently released Economic Survey of Kenya, tea contributed a total of Sh122.2 billion to the Kenyan economy in the last year, making it one of the largest contributors to the country’s economy.
Despite that, late payment and low prices by the agency has led to farmers hawking their tea in order to meet their financial needs.
Munya who was accompanied by Cherangany Legislator Joshua Kutuny said KTDA would use Standard Gauge Railway beginning November 1 this year to transport tea from upcountry to Mombasa auction as part of ongoing cost-cutting measures.
The Cabinet Secretary said the move would enable the agency to save money and plough it back into paying small scale farmers who are reeling from losses.
Lukose Willington, farmer’s representative from South West Zone called on the Agriculture Ministry to ensure next year they get subsidized fertilizer so that they could continue growing tea.
In response, Munya assured him that the Ministry has set aside Sh1 billion for fertilizer subsidy whereby farmers would be buying at Sh2, 500 from Sh 3,200 per 50 Kg bag.
As part of the reforms to address delay in payments to tea growers, Munya said small scale growers would be paid for their supplies by 5th day of every month just like Multinational Companies.
Another farmer Meto Kiptanui asked the Agriculture CS to address the issue of distortion of green leaf weighing machines at various tea buying centres saying many tea growers were being exploited.
Nandi County has several tea factories among them Kaptumo Tea Factory in Nandi hills, Chemomi, Kapchabo and Sireet tea. Tea growing is the main cash crop in the region.
Poor pay to tea farmers has prevailed over the years despite the commodity being one of the Kenya’s top foreign exchange earners.
On diversification, Munya said plans were underway to boost the production of Orthodox teas, whose returns were much higher than that of CTC teas.
He said every zone would have one Orthodox machine and farmers would be helped to expand production lines with Orthodox tea at a low cost.
“Increased production and sale of Orthodox tea will boost the financial performance of the tea factories and returns to the tea growers,” he said.
By Linet Wafula