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Tea farmers wary of former KTDA directors

KTDA Zone Eleven Board Member Mr. James Ombasa has urged former directors to avoid interfering with the operations of the tea factories in Kisii County.

Speaking during a meeting with tea farmers in Gucha Sub County, Kisii, Ombasa noted the farmers were willing to promote tea farming after they incurred losses with coffee and pyrethrum farming and needed good leadership to support their farming activities.

The Board member said they were elected as Directors of Ogembo Tea Factory last year through an election process and the former Directors have no reason to storm KTDA offices countrywide in an attempt to take over the business affairs.

“Personally, and with my colleagues who are board members and Directors all over the country who are in office, we are telling them if you want elections, ask for elections but not coming through the back door,” he said.

Ombasa cited various improvements they have made within the tea sector since taking office including raising the prices of tea from Sh17 to Sh20 a kilogramme per month, introducing a reserve price which is 2.43 dollars and also increasing the bonus from Sh5 to Sh19 per kilogramme.

He added that the new leadership ensured that KTDA pays the tea farmers by the 5th of every month, similar to other employees in the public service, and urged the former officials to wait for the term of the current office bearers to come to an end.

This comes days after former KTDA officials invaded the agency’s main offices in Nairobi and some tea factories countrywide claiming the current directors were illegally elected into office.

However, the Tea Act 2020 provided for the election of new directors by smallholder tea farmers between March and June 2021, and this was in line with new regulations which stipulated one farmer one vote as opposed to the previous elections that were based on a farmer’s shares.

Regarding new developments in the region, Ombasa said they were planning to introduce orthodox tea to Ogembo and Itumbe Tea Factories due to its capability to fetch high prices and high demand in the international market.

Currently, the government is implementing market development activities in orthodox tea markets like Russia, China, UAE, Iran, Iraq, Poland and Germany to promote Kenya orthodox teas and reduce overreliance on black CTC teas.

Despite Kenya being the largest exporter of black CTC teas in the global market over the last decade, tends in tea prices in the last ten years have shown that orthodox teas fetch better prices than black CTC.

Ombasa pointed out that they have received 41,000 metric tonnes of fertilizers against the 88,000 metric tonnes ordered for tea farmers and the second consignment was expected to arrive in the country on Thursday for distribution to the respective tea buying centers.

One of the tea farmers, Tom Nyandwaro, said they have been sensitized on the developments in the tea sector, tea harvesting and marketing, and benefits for farmers.

He noted that since the new KTDA leadership came into office as requested by the tea farmers, the sale of the crop has greatly improved.

“Initially, we would get a bonus of Sh5, but after the election of the new leaders, farmers now receive a bonus of Sh19 for their produce. This has assisted us to support our children’s education in schools,” said the tea farmer.

Nyandwaro encouraged the leadership team to continue supporting the tea farmers by sourcing for additional markets adding that they were grateful to the national government for providing subsidized fertilizers for their farms.

Further, he urged the previous leadership to avoid interfering with the operations of the tea factories and instead, wait for the next elections to compete for the positions.

By Mercy Osongo

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