Tea farmers in Murang’a have warned Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) against deducting part of this year’s bonus to service its loans.
Part of farmers drawn from 10 tea factories within Murang’a on Thursday alleged that KTDA planned to deduct Sh3 per kilo to service its loans.
They said if the agency failed to drop the proposal, small scale tea farmers would stop picking their green leaf until their deducted amount is reverted.
Led by representatives from the companies who included, James Wambugu, Samuel Njunu, Moffat Kamau among others, the farmers accused KTDA of using unclear reasons to deny farmers maximum returns from their produce.
Speaking in Kenol market, the farmers noted that the little dividends the agency paid farmers recently accrued from subsidiaries factories of KTDA could have been used to service loans of the agency.
They further said the Agency has moved to court to block implementation of new regulations introduced by the government so that the directors could continue enjoying more returns without considering the fate of farmers.
“We are aware that KTDA has gone to court to challenge implementation of tea regulations 2020 which were introduced by Agriculture CS. We want to say that KTDA is not in court because of farmers’ interest but because of the interests of its management,” said Wambugu.
He added that the regulations spearheaded by the Ministry of Agriculture have come at the right time to remove the yoke of oppression from tea farmers.
“If KTDA can resist changes initiated by none other than the President, who else can’t they object? The agency from our view is not ready to assist farmers get better benefits from their cash crop,” noted Wambugu.
The farmers said KTDA and members of staff were currently pressuring Parliament to reject the new regulations spearheaded by the Agriculture CS saying if the members of Parliament heed to KTDA’s requests, tea farmers would continue to suffer.
They asked MPs and Senators to come on the ground and get facts on the hardships tea farmers have been going through for years, saying the new regulations proposed to streamline tea marketing to ensure it was done in good faith and for the benefit of small scale farmers.
“We implore our MPs to hear none of KTDA’s belated appeals. Let them consider the fate of small scale tea farmers who for long have been exploited by KTDA,” said another farmer Rev. Biden Njuguna.
Meanwhile, the farmers criticized the power station which was established by KTDA in Murang’a saying the station has not benefited farmers as it was alleged.
They argued that KTDA Power Company was registered without consultation and approval of tea farmers.
“The power company was created as a conduit for misappropriation of tea farmers earning through white elephant projects. We are disappointed when this company is dubbed as the panacea of our factory energy cost. It’s a fantasy of those who want to perpetually cheat on tea farmers,” stated Njuguna.
As farmers, he added “let’s be in the frontline to make decisions without some people forcing us to do some projects which have no benefit to real farmers.”
Since KTDA moved to court to block implementations of new guidelines proposed by the Ministry of Agriculture aimed at streamlining operations in the sector, the agency has come under fire from tea farmers.
Should the far reaching guidelines proposed for the tea sector be implemented, KTDA would lose its stronghold of the 69 tea factories it manages countrywide, stop direct sale of tea overseas and have its levies on farmers’ owned tea companies capped at two per cent down from 2.5 among the recommendations.
By Bernard Munyao