Farmers allied to the Makomboki tea factory in Murang’a County are accusing Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) of opposing implementation of Tea Act 2020.
The farmers have observed that after the Bill was assented to law in December 2020, KTDA which manages tea of small-scale tea holders has instituted court cases in an effort to ensure the new regulations in the sector will not see light of the day.
On Sunday during a sensitization forum about the new law at Mairi area in Kangari ward, the farmers castigated the KTDA of using their money to pay legal fees to block regulations aimed to streamline the tea sector and ensure farmers get more returns from their produce.
They alleged that KTDA is using millions of shillings which belong to farmers to pay legal fees without their consent.
The farmers led by former Planning Principal Secretary Irungu Nyakera asked the government to start implementing pertinent sections of the law so that they can start benefiting.
Nyakera, while addressing hundreds of farmers said the law was expected to come to full force from January this year but the court injunction which was issued after KTDA filed a petition has slowed down implementation.
The former PS who is also a tea farmer said important issues in the law like formation of tea board, registration of farmers, monthly pay, elections of factory directors and governance of the KTDA need to be allowed to take place and benefit tea farmers.
“We request the government to take charge and ensure some key sections in the law are implemented,” he said, adding, “farmers are awaiting their monthly payments as stated in the law and are eagerly waiting for the election of new factory directors.”
Nyakera said the new election method as stated in the law should be used in the election of new directors urging farmers not to elect people who have served for long periods.
“My appeal to farmers is to elect trustworthy individuals to man our tea factories. There are some people who have served as directors for more than 30 years! These people have nothing new to offer farmers. Let’s not be enticed with money to elect untrustworthy people,” stated the former PS.
A local farmer, Mukuna Kariuki, allied to Ngere tea factory asked KTDA to withdraw the court case.
He accused the management of the agency of failing to educate farmers about the new regulations but instead used millions of shillings to oppose the new law.
“If KTDA will not withdraw the case opposing the new regulations, as farmers we will boycott plucking of our tea. We cannot allow the agency which is fully owned by farmers to continue exploiting us for unnecessary reasons,” declared Kariuki.
He accused KTDA directors of borrowing money using the name of farmers saying the accrued loans sourced after assenting of the bill, will be paid by the directors and not farmers.
“We are happy with the government especially the ministry of agriculture for its commitments to streamline the tea sector and as farmers we want to be united and stop people who want to continue taking advantage of poor farmers,” Kairuki further said.
by Bernard Munyao