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Cartels blamed for stalled reforms in Tea and Coffee sectors

Reforms in both Tea and Coffee sectors are facing strong opposition leading to escalation of woes facing hundreds of small holder farmers, the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary (CS), Mwangi Kiunjuri has said.

“Cartels and directors of key export commodities are frustrating reforms that government has been fast tracking in tea and coffee subsectors,” he added.

The  CS  who  was  speaking  on Tuesday when opening the 2019 Conference on Africa’s  Agricultural Productivity (CAAP) at Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) headquarters said the resistance by the lobby groups has denied small scale farmers a chance to enjoy beneficial opportunities.

He gave an example in the Tea subsector where he said farmers have managed to produce impressive production over the years, yet the farmers are disappointed when it comes to payment due to low performance of prices in the international market.

“The low payments can be avoided if Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) focuses more on expansion of the produce especially specialty teas in order to shield farmers against the global price fluctuations,” he said.

At the same time, the CS has blamed KTDA on what he termed as investment misallocation instead of fast-tracking opportunities beneficial to farmers.

“KTDA’s failure to focus on tea diversification demonstrates failure and lack of interest of the welfare of farmers,” the CS said adding that promoting orthodox tea which is attracting premiums is the way to go.

Continuation of investing in activities that are not realizing any proceeds or not enhancing farmers’ payments is lacking, Kiunjuri said, noting that this is a governance issue that needs to be addressed.

In the coffee subsector, Government is implementing a reform agenda in the coffee industry but the reforms have also faced challenges from lobby groups some of which are not even known locally.

The  Government has been grappling with numerous legal suits filed in the courts by entities purporting to be farmer groups who are sponsored by the cartels thus frustrating government’s efforts to improve the plight of farmers.

According to the Economic Survey 2019, tea and coffee earned the country Sh.142.62 billion in 2018. However, both crops have suffered low prices in the last one year, a situation blamed on surplus supply of produce in the international market.

Coffee, the once leading foreign exchange earner is also grappling with challenges of management as trade associations have sidelined farmers by applying unethical tactics and thus able to control the entire coffee value chain.

By  Wangari  Ndirangu

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