Tea farmers across the country have been requested to support proposed new tea regulations which are aimed at streamlining marketing of the commodity and revamping the sector.
Chairperson of Kenya Tea Sector Lobby Mr. Irungu Nyakera said if the proposed reforms are successfully implemented, the changes will seal all leakages which have denied farmers better returns from tea.
Nyakera made the remarks on Saturday when, together with some stakeholders met farmers allied to Githambo tea factory in Kahuro sub county. He observed that the tea regulations 2020 target to eliminate cartels who have for long hijacked the sector leaving farmers with meager earnings.
He said since the Minister for agriculture Peter Munya came up with new proposals, some positive changes have been witnessed. He noted that in the proposed regulations, tea is supposed to be sold through auction and not directly as the way KTDA currently does.
The former planning Principal secretary who is also a tea famer noted that KTDA currently sells 50 percent of collected tea through direct sales and the remainder through auctioning.
“After government directed all tea to be sold through auctioning, the prices for the last one month have gone up by one dollar per kilo of tea but it’s unfortunate that KTDA is against these new regulations and has even taken the matter to court seeking quashing of the changes,” said Nyakera.
He underscored the need to educate tea farmers about the new regulations so that they can know what they support and avoid being deceived by the people against the changes.
The regulations, he added, stipulate that after selling tea, the money should be transmitted to individual specific factories within 14 days and farmers should be paid at least 50 percent on a monthly basis contrary to the current situation where farmers have to wait for a bonus for more than six months.
“There is an issue of what a farmer gets currently and it’s clear that farmers earn about 30 percent on what they deliver to KTDA allied factories thus leaving them frustrated due to meager earnings,” he stressed.
The proposals, Nyakera added have reduced the brokerage fee from 1.5 percent to 0.2 percent saying the difference will enable farmers get better returns.
Speaking at the same occasion, a tea farmer Ms. Wanja Michuki said the monopoly being enjoyed by KTDA is at disadvantage of tea farmers saying the sector needs to be liberalized to allow many players to compete.
“KTDA has enjoyed the monopoly in marketing of tea from small scale holder farmers and the proposed regulations will see the issue of marketing dealt with,” noted Wanja.
She noted the regulations will encourage competition with more companies offering a range of management prices and that factories will now be able to run their own bank accounts.
“We are here to let farmers know that they own the factories and should be at the centre of any decision that concerns their operations,” he said.
She reiterated the need for farmers to elect directors capable of propelling their factories towards value-addition without having to refer to the managing agency.
By Bernard Munyao