Hundreds of tea farmers affiliated to Tegat Tea Factory Company limited in Kericho County yesterday protested what they termed as low second payment for their produce.
They barricaded roads leading to the factory and boycotted tea plucking in a bid to pressurize the Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA) run factory to reverse the payment from what was announced of Sh14 per Kilogramme to Sh25.
The highly charged farmers lit bonfires and used tree logs to block roads leading to the factory in a bid to express their anger over the payment standoff.
They also demanded immediate transfer of some of the factory managers claiming they had contributed to woes facing them.
Speaking during the protest, Kericho Member of County Assembly Paul Chirchir accused the factory management and KTDA of allegedly exploiting the small holder farmers to an extent that they (farmers) could not make ends meet.
“KTDA must be disbanded for failing to serve the interests of the farmers. Factory directors must go home like yesterday because they are sleeping on the job. They have totally failed to champion for the farmers’ welfare and progress,” said Chirchir.
He said it was a fallacy to pay farmers from other regions highly under the guise of plucking quality tea while tea farmers from the region were being paid dismally for the same tea leaves they deliver to KTDA factories in the region.
“We are asking the government to do an audit on all KTDA run factories from the region because we highly believe corruption is rife. This has made farmers to earn peanuts day in day out and we’re not going to stomach this anymore,” said the MCA,
Riot police swung into action and fired several tear gas canisters to disperse the demonstrators who vowed not to back off on their protests that lasted for the better part of yesterday.
In the recently released second payment, Tegat tea factory is set to pay farmers Sh14.10 per kilo while the leading factory in Kericho and Bomet counties will pay Sh28 (Momul tea factory).
Reached for comments, the Tegat tea factory board of directors chairman Jonathan Mutai said the prices depends on the world market and quality of the teas.
He urged farmers to understand the problem arguing that it was not only Tegat farmers alone whose payment had plummeted. He said prices of tea in all the KTDA run factories in Kenya dropped this year by almost 30 percent.
“We are appealing to our farmers to resume plucking of tea because the problem is not of our own making. Prices are determined by quality of processed teas in the world market and other factors,” said Mutai.
By Dominic Cheres