A section of tea farmers who sell their tea leaves to various tea factories n Muranga South Sub County have threatened to quit Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA) and seek for alternative better paying markets
They said KTDA ignored their welfare, failed to solve their grievances, and presided over low payment of bonuses, arguing that it would be prudent if they are allowed to sell to other buyers who value the crop.
The farmers who sell their tea to Nduti factory in Kandara constituency said there should be a liberal market in the tea value chain where they were allowed to process, package and make their tea, as the case is with coffee for better returns.
“Why should we be held captive by KTDA? We are the farmers and we have the liberty on who we should sell out tea to. Farming tea is an expensive venture and it should pay well. We should be allowed to sell our tea to the main markets like Pakistan and other markets across the world,” said Mwangi Ndaka, one of the farmers.
They spoke on Thursday during the factory’s AGM meeting to discuss financial management.
They complained that over the years, the payment of their bonuses has reduced to about Sh.42, which they claimed was too little to sustain the venture.
“Last year, we were paid Sh.50 as bonuses. This year, the amount has reduced to Sh.42. Who knows how low it may get next year. The venture is no longer profitable and we need to change the tea value chain if we are to benefit,” said Pauline Wambui, another farmer.
Others threatened to uproot their tea bushes to plant better paying crops, saying tea sector has become valueless due to the high number of taxes that the government deducts from farmers.
The number of taxes levied on tea by the government is 42 which they said should be reduced to a more reasonable number so that farmers could get better pay.
“We ask the government to waive some of the taxes and levies charged in the tea value chain so as to lower the operating costs and increase returns,” said Samson Kariuki.
The same sentiments were echoed by farmers who sell to Makomboki factory in Kigumo constituency.
Others called for a regular life style audit to be conducted on the factory’s KTDA directors to safeguard their resources from looting.
They said some of the directors got rich overnight and called for an audit to establish their sources of wealth, adding that anyone found to have looted should be forced to resign, and money recovered and given back to farmers.
By Muoki Charles