Reforms in the tea sector initiated by the government have brought a lot of advantages to the stakeholders, especially the farmers who for the past one year have been receiving their pay on time.
However, during an Annual General Meeting (AGM) at Ndima Tea Factory in Ndia Constituency, Kenya Tea Board Member and area director John Mithamo raised an alarm over the interference of politicians some of whom want to tamper with the sector and sabotage reforms that have been realized.
While referring to a proposal by the tea management to deduct one kilogram in every 12 kg bag to compensate for tea leaves lost during transportation and sorting, Mithamo said the suggestion was to be taken to farmers to concur or disagree with the directors. Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) currently deducts 0.5Kgs at the buying center in every 12kg bag to gather for leaves losses.
“We had a successful AGM today and farmers have passed what they wanted, however, there is politics being brought into the tea sector and we want the government to support us,” Mithamo said.
He said Kirinyaga County Senator Kamau Murango had rushed to court to sue the directors and stop implementation of deduction which in the first place was a suggestion.
He warned the farmers that they would be losing money to pay legal fees because the respondents are the factories and they must pay their lawyers.
“Senator has sued the factories and the farmers will continue incurring losses. These court cases will need representation and the farmers will have to pay their lawyer. We urge the Senator to withdraw the case before the farmers are deducted legal fees,” he added.
Mithamo said the proposal must go through the major stakeholders, farmers, before being implemented and at the same time, politicians should cease from inciting the farmers.
Kibeti Muchoki, a Ndima tea farmer, said that in the past, they have experienced how costly legal battles are and urge politicians to keep off the tea sector.
“Politics will destroy the reformed sector and the farmer will pay the ultimate price,” noted Muchoki who called on all stakeholders to come together for consultations before making decisions which may harm the sector.
“We have been in court battles in the past and truly the farmer is the one who loses. Politicians should stay away from our tea sector. They can join us through board, directors or consult the farmers directly before making such decisions,” Muchoki said.
Cecily Wanjohi, another farmer, said they have been getting their dues on time with better pay compared with the past three years. She expressed displeasure over new developments that may mess with the reforms.
“If politics continue, we will be back to where we were. We are getting better pay nowadays and latest by 5th every month,” she said.
By Mutai Kipngetich