05 Oct

The government should dialogue with players over the new sector regulations to ensure concerns are addressed, the Kenya Tea Development Agency has said.

KTDA chairman Peter Kanyago said on Wednesday in Nyeri town that implementing the regulations without talks with the stakeholders will not augur well for the sector.

“So we want a dialogue with the government. That is what I am trying to say so that if there are some improvements that we can do in one area or another, we do it,” he said.

The remarks came as farmers from Murang’a and Nyeri counties said they will stage mass action to demand the withdrawal of the cases KTDA filed against the regulations.

Sector opinion leaders from the two counties said they will join their counterparts from Kirinyaga in marching to KTDA’s offices in Nairobi to demand accountability.

They accused KTDA of rejecting reforms meant to dismantle an opaque and exploitative system that has enslaved them for decades.

But Kanyago emphasised the need to be careful so the sector does not go the way of sugar cane, coffee pyrethrum and cotton, adding the tea sector is stable and will go from strength to strength if it is not politicised.

Kanyago said dialogue between KTDA and the government will yield a win-win situation for the farmer and save the sector from collapse.

He said KTDA is a private company as opposed to what some people say.

Kanyago added that former Attorney General Amos Wako (now Busia senator) had given an opinion that KTDA is a private firm, thus if the government wanted to take it over, then it could only buy farmers' assets that run into billions of shillings.

"Most of the factories own about two per cent of KTDA and that translates into over Sh400 million per factory and so it would be a lot of money,” he said.

Kanyago said many sectors collapse after being taken over by the government and said any plot to do so with tea will reverse the gains made in the sector.

Privatising KTDA was a very positive move and should be encouraged, he stated.

Kanyago accused Agriculture CS Peter Munya of ignoring proper public participation before directing the implementation of the new rules.

However, last Friday, Munya said that public participation was conducted. He said draft regulations were shared with farmers, published in newspapers, online, sent to stakeholders and advertised on TV for public input.

Feedback was received from all stakeholders, including farmers, MPs and various organisations, the CS said.

He made the remarks during a meeting with Nyeri tea farmers in Othaya Stadium.

But Kanyago faulted the timing saying it was during Covid-19 and Munya gave only two weeks of public participation that was to be done electronically because of movement restrictions.

KTDA sent its presentation, which Kanyago said was not considered and that the real farmers could not submit presentation electronically as they do not have the means.

“So I would not call that proper public participation. He is now going forward and this is the right thing he is doing but he is doing it the other way round,” he added.

“He is putting the cart before the horse because this (public participation) should have been done well before the regulations were announced. We are saying let there be proper public participation.”

He said the Council of Governors had also written a letter claiming that though agriculture is a devolved function, county chiefs were not consulted.

Kanyago said with proper consultation stakeholders will be able to iron out issues raised by sector players. He said President Uhuru Kenyatta's directive was that KTDA pay at least 50 per cent. He said they are not opposed to that and will endeavour to pay at least half the money and the balance paid as bonuses.

He said the President’s directive also demanded 80 per cent of the tea be sold through auction and 20 through direct sale.

But he faulted the new regulations for proposing 100 per cent sale through auction, saying that would flood tea in the market and lead to a drop in prices.

On the proposal that buyers deposit 10 per cent bond to Agriculture and Food Authority, Kanyago said tea from other countries will not have that performance bond and so buyers will go for tea that will not impose more cost on them.

Kanyago also said all tea sold through auction are paid promptly within 10 days and one cannot get tea from an auction unless it is paid for, adding that the 10 per cent performance bond is not needed.

On value addition, he said the government should provide incentives for increased value, for instance, removing duty for locally consumed tea, machinery and packaging materials.

Source: The Star