Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) managed factories in Bomet County started paying tea farmers bonuses amid protests over poor prices being offered.
Protesting the low bonus rates offered by KTDA which is ranging from Sh.14 to Sh.18 per kilo paid by various factories, some farmers have resorted to uprooting their crop.
Farmers armed with power saws and machetes felled the tea bushes and vowed to replace it with food crops and horticultural crops.
The farmers wondered why there was a sharp decline in tea bonuses in the western Kenya region whereas Central Kenya continues to enjoy high prices.
On Friday when the payments were officially announced some small scale growers started cutting down the tea in protest at the poor prices.
Some farmers started uprooting their crop as others continued cutting down the tea bushes yesterday in Bomet East and Konoin sub counties.
Laban Rotich who led other farmers in uprooting their tea bushes said, “It is unfortunate that after 15 years growing tea we have never experienced such low prices , we appeal to Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Mwangi Kiunjuri to intervene,”.
He said his factory Kapkoros Tea company had offered Sh.18 per kilogram in bonus compared with Sh.34 offered last year.
“We have been left at the mercy of cartels operating in the sector who reap billions of shillings while growers are left to incur huge losses and without intervention from the national government we are doomed,” Rotich lamented.
Other farmers who addressed the press said that they would be replacing the cash crop with horticultural produce which from experience fetches better income in a shorter period as compared to tea.
The Kapkoros Tea Factory director in charge of Tegat/ Chemaner zone, Baxton Sigilai appealed to growers not to uproot the cash crop noting that the poor income affected the whole country as a result of global market prices.
By Joseph Obwocha