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SGR to transport tea to Mombasa

Tea from Mt Kenya region will be transported from Nairobi to Mombasa by the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in a bid to reduce avoidable postproduction losses.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said were it not for the incompatibility of the old railway system with the SGR, the commodity would have been transported to the Mombasa auction from Sagana in Kirinyaga County very cheaply.

Agriculture CS Peter Munya, addressing tea farmers at Ndima Tea Factory in Kirinyaga County where he briefed them on the progress of the ongoing reforms in the sector. Photo by Irungu Mwangi

“We are trying our best to kick out all the cartels which had infiltrated the tea sector in all forms, especially transport from upcountry to the auction in Mombasa,” Munya told farmers at Ndima Tea Factory in Kirinyaga County.

He said the tea would be first stored in the large disused Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (KPCU) godowns in Nairobi from where it will later be loaded into the SGR and transported to the Mombasa Auction.

The factory serves farmers from both Mathira and Kirinyaga since it lies on the border of the two tea catchment areas, hence its name Ndima (Ndia and Mathira). The CS said due to the railway network incompatibility, the commodity from the region will continue to be transported to Nairobi by road from where the tea would be loaded into the SGR and taken to the Mombasa auction.

“This will still be a cheaper option when compared to the old arrangement, where the commodity has been transported from the respective factories by road to Mombasa,” Munya maintained.

Munya who was accompanied by the new Kenya Tea Development Agency Ltd (KTDA) Board Chairman, David Ichoho and directors from the Zone Five, asked farmers to be patient as the rot that had persisted for many years, got cleaned up for them to start reaping benefits from their crop.

“If you have been sick for a long time, even if you are put on treatment, you cannot be healed in one day. You have to continue being on medication and start healing gradually and this is how the tea sector is at the moment,” Munya told the farmers.

He accused the ousted KTDA Board of having been on a looting mission, by ensuring the prices of the commodity had sunk to a low of a dollar and 70 cents in the last five consecutive years, leaving the farmers completely impoverished.

“But after embarking on a cleanup mission and putting on stringent measures within the last few months, we are now headed to 3.33 dollars per kilogram of processed tea towards the end of this month and this is scheduled to continue improving for better,” Munya assured the farmers.

The CS defended the current KTDA Board from claims that it was responsible for the low bonus payment and reminded the critics the new officials only took office only a while ago.

He promised farmers of a boom next year from bonus as had been the case before and also announced that the government had pumped in Sh 1 billion to cushion the high cost of fertilizers, which stands at Sh 3,200 per 50 kg bag to Sh 2,500.

The CS further assured the farmer’s heads would start rolling at the KTDA headquarters after the DCI takes to court the former Board members said to have systematically looted from the farmer’s proceeds.

He said forensic audits would also cascade from the KTDA Headquarters to all the 64 factories and where those found to have been culpable, will be arrested and prosecuted.

By Irungu Mwangi

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