Directors drawn from tea factories within Murang’a County have cautioned leaders in the county against politicising the tea sector.
The directors who spoke to the press after holding a meeting at Kenol town on Monday claimed that some leaders are blaming Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) over reduced bonus without really knowing what occasioned low payment of bonus this year.
They termed a move by Murang’a Governor Mwangi Wa- Iria to move to court seeking orders to have the agency be audited as baseless, saying all accounts report of KTDA are presented in public for scrutiny.
Led by board members, Francis Macharia and Erastus Gakuya, the directors from 10 tea factories in the county said they welcome the governor’s decision to have KTDA audited, saying they have nothing to hide.
Macharia said this year, marketing of tea was affected by political instability in the countries which are main buyers of Kenyan tea.
He warned that careless politicking over the sector may kill the cash crop and end up subjecting the country to economic crises considering tea earns Kenya billions of shillings in foreign exchange.
Macharia said Governor Wa Iria could have visited the offices of KTDA and demanded for accounts records instead of moving to court, a process which makes the agency incur more expenses of hiring lawyers to defend the charges.
“Politics killed other cash crops like coffee, pyrethrum among others. Leaders should stop inciting farmers against KTDA, an agency which is fully owned by farmers. Reduction of bonus this year does not mean prices of tea will always be declining,” stated Macharia.
Yesterday, Governor Wa Iria moved to court to sue KTDA over reduced bonus, where High Court Judge, Kanyi Kimondo gave orders directing the office of Auditor General to independently audit accounts of the agency for the last financial year.
In the year under review, the farmers have received Sh.2.74 billion as their initial bonus payment, and another Sh.5.89 billion will be released at the end of the month.
Macharia said ups and downs in business are normal happenings and payment of lesser bonuses does not mean the tea sector is collapsing.
He absolved the directors from blame for the low bonus, citing persistence of political and economic crises experienced in Sudan, Pakistan and Egypt, the main buyers of Kenyan tea.
“Cause of low bonus payment should be blamed on frustrating foreign market, and this should not be blamed on the directors. The directors in the past four years have led to better bonus payment,” said Macharia.
This year tea factories in Murang’a processed 181 million kilos of green leaf that produced 43.85 million kilos of made tea, which was exported.
Gakuyu on his side asked politicians to tread carefully and show dedication to protecting the tea sector from collapse.
“If the trend is allowed our politicians will be behind the downfall of the sector, similar to what happened to Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (KPCU),” said Gakuya.
He accused Murang’a county government of not supporting tea sector especially in repairing roads linking tea factories saying road repairs are done by KTDA at expense of farmers.
“The county government should support us so as to remove some expenses which are catered by farmers and this will translate to more earnings for tea farmers,” observed Gakuya.
By Bernard Munyao