Tea farmers in Murang’a have expressed their support for the proposed new regulations even as the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) argues some of the regulations may negatively affect the sub sector.
During a tour by members of the parliamentary Committee on Delegated Legislation to collect views about the regulations in three factories within Murang’a County on Friday, majority of farmers supported the guidelines saying they will rescue them from numerous challenges facing the tea industry.
They said Parliament should help farmers to ensure they get better prices accusing KTDA of not doing much to rescue them from poverty.
Stephen Kariuki, a farmer allied to Gatunguru Tea factory claimed that all KTDA factories are under one company secretary saying every factory should have its own secretary who will champion the needs of the farmers.
He said for a long time, farmers have been exploited by the many charges levied on their green leaf delivered in their respective factories.
Another farmer, Joseph Wangara from Kiru tea factory said the three directors per factory as proposed in the regulations should be amended and each factory have the liberty to have more directors considering the number of farmers allied to each factory.
“We are not against the maximum of three directors per factory but let factories with many farmers have more directors but not more than six,” added Wangara.
The farmers told members of the committee led by Muriuki Njagagua that the regulations proposed by agriculture Secretary Peter Munya if are effectively implemented will ensure farmers get better prices from the cash crop.
Jacinta Kahuira said despite many hardships they undergo to tend their crops, most of the time they are left with huge loans to service since the income from tea is meager.
She lauded the proposal which wants farmers to be paid 50 percent of the sales at monthly auction saying the move will ensure they are not steeped in debts.
The farmers accused the KTDA of establishing many subsidiary companies which all depend on the sales from tea.
They said the reduced management charges as proposed in the new regulations will ensure minimal expenses which in turn will see farmers earn more income.
Representatives of KTDA led by chairmen of the factories argued that tea is levied many taxes which reciprocate negatively to earnings of farmers.
Led by chairman of Kiru tea factory, Dr. Stephen Githiga, the KTDA directors said the government can intervene and ensure some of the taxes levied on tea are done away with so that farmers can get more income.
Githiga further said as proposed that 40 percent of tea to be done value addition, such directive can only be achieved if the factories get the right equipment.
He added that tea farmers need to be given incentives like farmers of other crops adding that the sector should be manned by an independent ministry.
“With the contribution of tea in the GDP, the sector should be manned by an independent body or the tea board of Kenya be revived.” He said.
Currently the tea sector is managed under Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) with the directors claiming the authority does not give tea the needed attention.
The committee is out to get views from farmers among other stakeholders concerning the Tea Bill which is before the parliament.
In the recent past, farmers have been expressing dissatisfaction about how KTDA is handling their tea decrying dwindling tea prices, which result in meager earnings.
The committee’s vice chairperson, Njagaua assured the farmers that their views will be considered before final decision on the regulations is arrived at.
The committee visited three tea factories within Murang’a including Kiru, Kanyenyaini and Nduti.
By Bernard Munyao