18 Sep

A battle between farmers and Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) appears to be shaping up as the government consolidates the backing of growers and prices start to improve at the Mombasa auction.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya attributes the increasing prices to the new regulations that have banned the sale of tea by private agreements.

“After we started these reforms, tea prices at the auction have improved by more than 50 per cent,” Mr Munya told a meeting in Murang’a County on Sunday.

Gatunguru Tea factory in Murang’a, for instance, saw its best quality BP1 fetch Sh340 per kilogramme in August from Sh200 the previous month.

Gacharage factory’s BP1 was sold for Sh348 a kilo in August from Sh211 in June.

As a result, the minister has told off KTDA and vowed to rid the entire value chain of brokers whom he accused of corruptly earning better — more than 50 per cent than the farmer in some instances — than the grower.

Mr Munya spent the rainy Sunday meeting farmers drawn from 10 factories in Murang’a in what appears to be the start of a campaign to force the agency accept the guidelines.

Gone to court

KTDA has already gone to court to stop the implementation of the reforms.

“The enemy of the farmer is not me. The real enemy is the rigged system that turns the farmer into a slave,” Mr Munya said.

While Murang’a County has the largest concentration of tea factories in the country, all the local elected leaders — apart from Woman Representative Wanjiru Chege and Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi — skipped the meeting that was attended by 1,300 tea sector stakeholders.

Days earlier, the CS held another stakeholder meeting in Meru where KTDA has received the support of Governor Kiraitu Murungi.

The Meru County boss has been telling farmers to resist the changes proposed by his predecessor.

Mr Munya blames the farmers’ woes on “an exploitative brokerage network that rigs the market, corrupts earnings, manipulates pay computations and outrightly (sic) steals at the paying counter”.

Accept reforms

The Agriculture CS was supported by farmers’ representatives and asked lawmakers to accept the reforms currently at the National Assembly’s Delegated Legislation Committee.

He added that the regulations encompass the whole value chain — starting from breeding, husbandry, market structures and safeguarding earnings from harsh taxation regimes, theft and pay delays.

The farmers resolved not to hold directors’ elections until the reforms are implemented.

Mr Ngugi said the reforms are 95 per cent good, adding that they are being contested by KTDA and the East African Tea Trade Association, which runs the auction in Mombasa.

Source: Nation Media