30 Sep

Kenya Tea Development Agency has been told to come clear and explain to farmers how it calculated this year’s second payment rates for bonuses.

Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina on Saturday said farmers have made a hue and cry about low bonuses, hence the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), being a public body, should be answerable.

"It’s no use waking up one day and declaring that the bonus is Sh20 or Sh10. It is disheartening to farmers,” he said.

The senator described the management of the tea sector as a matter of concern.

But KTDA chairman Peter Kanyago attributed the low rates to the law of supply and demand, citing a glut of supply.

"If you have more tea, the prices in the Mombasa auction goes lower,” he said.

Farmers had a bumper harvest this year as a result of good weather, which was characterised by ample rain and sunshine — both of which are ideal for production.

As a result, more tea was delivered to factories and that will compensate for the low prices, Kanyago said.

But Maina told the media in Nyeri that the coffee sector faced a similar predicament before collapsing. He urged the government to step in aggressively and ensure both tea and coffee are saved.

He further called for the expedition of new tea regulations so farmers can benefit if that is the route to help save the sector from collapsing.

“I would request the government to try and put some funding to the tea sector, which has not collapsed completely, to ensure it is saved from a total collapse like that witnessed in the coffee sector,” Maina said.

He suggested that about Sh30 billion be invested in each of the two sectors (coffee and tea). Otherwise, farmers will be left in abject poverty, he cautioned.

The lawmaker said the same should apply to other sectors such as dairy, pyrethrum, sugar cane and maize as part of measures to revamp and prioritise agriculture, a key component of the Big Four Agenda pillar on food security.

When Kenya was a thriving economy, like during the reign of President Jomo Kenyatta, the country was producing enough coffee but today it is only producing 15 per cent of that, he said.

“Even milk production has dwindled to maybe 20 per cent. We need to return this country to where it belonged in those days.”

On counties revenue sharing formula, Maina said the Senate has done its part and solved the stalemate that was in the House and called on governors to spend the money prudently.

He expressed hope that the money will be disbursed this week but termed it sad that the national government has been pumping money into the counties, only for residents to face shortages of drugs and medical equipment in hospitals, as well as poor services.

Maina, in particular, cited Nyeri, which has got an in increase allocation of about Sh1 billion. He urged the county government to use the additional funds to improve the state of county hospitals.

"It is painful when our patients go to hospital and are turned away because of lack of basic drugs, yet out there, roads are being constructed.”

The money should also be spent on uplifting the living standards of small traders who were affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus, he suggested.

Maina supported religious leaders who pledged to support President Uhuru Kenyatta in the war on corruption and called on them to speak out when they suspect underhand dealings or inefficiency in government.

Source: The Star