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Farmers Fault Plans to Revamp Tea Sector

A section of tea farmers in Murang’a are against some proposals made recently by the Ministry of Agriculture meant to revamp the sector and increase farmers’ earnings.
The farmers have said some of the proposals by Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya may adversely affect them more than the prevailing status currently.
Addressing the press on Monday at Kanyanyaini area, the farmers who were drawn from several tea factories faulted the Ministry for coming up with drastic proposals without involving them.
Washington Mwangi, a tea farmer allied to Kanyanyaini factory said the Ministry did not bother to conduct public participation to allow farmers point out the real problems they have been experiencing in the sector.
He said in the new raft of proposals, every factory is required to have at least 250 hectares of land; a requirement which he said is unrealistic since many tea factories cannot have such huge tracks of land.
“The factories don’t have huge chunks of land but they rely on us farmers who supply the bulk of green leaf. Like our factory Kanyanyaini has a 20-hectare piece of land,” Mwangi said.
Mwangi further lauded the proposal that 50 percent of tea sales should go to farmers but added that such a proposal may be abused by independent buyers who may opt to give higher prices.
The farmers observed that they have invested a lot through Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) hence sidelining the agency in the new reforms may heavily cost farmers a lot of their investment.
“Like here in Murang’a, four tea factories came together and put up a hydro-electric plant to support in provision of electricity, if the KTDA will not be well involved in the reforms, we may lose such investments,” added Mwangi.
On her part, Julia Wanjiru from Gatunguru Tea Factory said majority of tea farmers are yet to comprehend the details of the new proposals.
“We just hear of the proposals from channels of media, can officials from the Ministry of Agriculture come on the ground and educate us about the new measures,” posed Wanjiru.
Patrick Mungai from Githambo Tea Factory wondered why the Ministry wants every tea factory under the new proposals required to have its own company secretary.
“Currently KTDA has one company secretary but saying every factory to have its own secretary will be quite expensive for farmers and yet we are agitating for reduction of expenses to increase farmers’ earnings,” noted Mungai.
He said the proposal requiring every factory to renew an operation license after every two years should be dropped since the tea factories belong to farmers.
Last month, CS Munya came up with various proposals aimed at eliminating cartels in the tea sector which for a long time have occasioned minimal returns to farmers.
Munya in the new regulations stated that tea sector is currently undermined by manipulation and the predatory behavior of some actors in the value chain.
In his new regulations which KTDA is not comfortable with, Munya noted that for a long time the tea value chain in the country has been constrained by structural challenges that have undermined the sector’s ability to achieve full potential in export earnings, job creation and better incomes.
He further proposed that all tea produced in the country for the export market be sold exclusively through the auction process.
The farmers said the proposals by the CS may sound good but argued they need to understand them before they are fully implemented fearing they may end up being shortchanged.
By Bernard Munyao

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