Legislators from tea growing zones in Western region have vowed to pass a Bill to re-introduce the Tea Board of Kenya to steer the tea industry.
The MPs recalled that when the Tea board was in existence licensing of tea brokers and marketing of tea produce was efficient and effective.
They regretted the resolution to dissolve the Tea Board of Kenya was the most unfortunate occurrence ever to happen to tea farming in the county.
Addressing the press after a daylong meeting with tea factory directors in a Kericho hotel to brainstorm the slump in tea prices, the law makers led by the Bureti MP, Japheth Mutai said they will lobby fellow MPs to pass the Tea bill which is before Parliament.
“We will marshal numbers to ensure that the Tea bill which is before parliament is passed to bring back the Tea board of Kenya which will oversee the sector,” said Mutai”.
The leaders who included Konoin MP, Brighton Yegon noted that there was a big problem with the management of Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) where they claimed over 11 brokers are marketing and managing tea from the ordinary tea farmers.
MPs said KTDA directors’ interest is questionable and alleged they were acting in a biased manner condoned by the leadership of KTDA.
Mutai said that as tea farmers they are against the direct sales of tea overseas and direct sales to the local auction market which gives preference to certain brokers only.
“We want tea farmers to be allowed to sell their tea directly to the overseas market they choose”.
The legislator said that the tea bill will cure the problems faced by the tea farmers in the country and get rid of the marketing monopoly by KTDA in the tea industry.
Mutai at the same time called for a thorough audit of 2018-2019 financial undertakings and payments made by KTDA, including the low payments declared by the KTDA in tea bonuses.
The Bureti Member of Parliament said that Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) should help the tea farmer by waiving the16 percent VAT levied for tea sales if tea farmers were to sell their produce directly from factories to the overseas market.
Mutai said that they are demanding that the government set up a price guarantee for the tea farmer where every famer will know that in case of a price fall every tea farmer will know they will get or receive a certain minimum amount for their produce.
The legislators said they will not allow the tea industry to be messed up like other agricultural sectors and added that as elected leaders they will not sit up and watch the industry go to the dogs.
Noting that it’s only tea that the government does not give fertilizer subsidies unlike other crops, Mutai said that they want the government to also give subsidy to the tea farmers like other fertilizers for other crops in the country.
Mutai also called for fairness in the employment of management and workers in the KTDA saying that currently employment in the institution was skewed adding equitable employment has been ignored.
A few directors who attended the function opted not to talk to the press and left the meeting as soon as it was over.
By Dominic Cheres