The National Assembly committee on Agriculture has embarked on major reforms in the tea sector to shield small scale tea growers from exploitation by middle men.
The committee Chairman also Member of Parliament for Mandela South, Ali Sheikh Adan and his team of fellow MPs said tea brokers, Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) and Multinational tea companies had in the past conspired to steal from small scale growers.
The MPs who collected views from the public on the state of the tea sector at Mogogosiek tea factory in Bomet County on Monday accused KTDA of exploiting farmers.
They were in agreement with the small scale tea growers who are demanding that the Kenya Tea Board (KTB) be reinstated and issues relating to tea be de-linked from the Agricultural Food Authority (AFA) since it was a regulator in the tea sector but had abdicated its role.
The MPs in attendance included Konoin’s Brighton Yegon (host), Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo), John Mwirigi (Igembe South), Dr. Daniel Tuitoek (Mogotio), Janeth Sitienei (Turbo), Japheth Mutai (Bureti) and Justus Murunga (Matungu).
They also held a meeting with directors and senior managers of KTDA managed factories and leaders of tea buying centres in the region where a raft of issues were presented.
Mwirigi said the government should set aside a fund that would cushion tea farmers from incurring losses when there is a glut in the international market.
Dr. Tuitoek said despite the quality of tea in the South-West region and especially Kericho and Bomet counties being ranked higher than that from other regions, the commodity’s small growers were impoverished.
“The tribulations the small scale tea growers had been subjected to by cartels in the industry would no longer be tolerated and it is time the sector becomes regulated,” Mutai added.
Wangwe said a lasting solution that would enable farmers to get better returns from their tea investment must be found complaining that there had been so much talk but very little action on the matter.
“There is need for a forensic audit of KTDA and should any financial impropriety be detected, farmers should be refunded their money immediately,” he said.
The forum comes at a time when some farmers in the South Rift region have uprooted their tea bushes in protest over poor prices for green leaf supplied to the KTDA managed factories.
By Joseph Obwocha