Farmers support Munya on proposed remedies to protect tea sector

Julia Mwangi attending her green leaf at Kanyenyaini tea collection centre on Monday.

A section of tea farmers from Murang’a County have lauded Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya for coming up with proposals aimed to eliminate cartels in the sector.

The farmers allied to Kanyanyaini tea factory on Monday expressed their support to the remedies outlined by the CS last week saying if fully implemented, farmers will get more returns from the cash crop.

Led by Wambugu Gachunje, the farmers claimed that for many years they have been receiving minimal returns from  tea due to cartels and middlemen associated with auctioning of tea.

They alleged that Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) which has been entrusted to market tea of smallholder farmers has not done much to protect farmers’ earnings.

The farmers said that there has been no accountability, transparency and fair competition in marketing of tea.

Gachunje noted that Munya’s proposal to have tea meant for export  directly sold overseas is much welcomed as the process will lock out cartels that have been minting farmers’ earnings.

Munya, last week when he stated various remedies meant to protect tea and coffee sectors observed that tea sector is currently undermined by the manipulation and predatory behavour of some actors in the value chain.

The CS announced that the government will carry out study to evaluate the impact of KTDA’s commercial behavior including on earnings of smallholders.

He further proposed that all tea produced in the country for the export market be sold exclusively through the auction process.

The CS in his statement mentioned that for longtime, tea value chain in the country has been constrained by structural challenges that have undermined the sector’s ability to achieve its full potential on export earnings, job creation and better incomes.

Gachunje accompanied by other farmers who deliver their tea at Kanyanyaini collection cautioned KTDA   against going to court to oppose the CS’s sentiments saying the government directives are good and will help tea farmers who for long time have been earning meager returns.

“We thank our president and the minister for agriculture for coming up with new directives aimed to increase earnings for tea farmers. KTDA should adhere to the new directives,” added the farmer.

The farmers further asked KTDA to reduce money deducted for management of the factories from two shillings to one shilling per kilo of green leaf delivered so as to cushion farmers during this period they are facing hard times occasioned by covid-19.

Another farmer, Njeri  Waithaka said each of KTDA tea factories should have at most two directors so as to minimise expenditure on directors.

“This time the country is faced by covid-19 pandemic, there are no directors at the factories yet operations are going on well. We need only two directors per factory,” argued Waithaka.

Tea is one of the leading foreign exchange earners in Kenya, contributing to about 23 percent of the country’s total income.

Last year, the sector earned the country Sh. 117 billion from exports and about Sh. 22 billion in local sales.