Tea farmers from Nyeri county have expressed concerns that they may not be paid their mini bonus and end month payments following confusion occasioned by the election of two set of directors.
The farmers from Gitugi tea factory in Othaya say that although they are not opposed to reforms in the sector, the recently held elections and raid at Kenya Tea Development Agency may result to them not being paid their dues. “As farmers we feel that these reforms being executed by the government may be counterproductive, sources in the agency say that they may not pay us. We are therefore urging the governor to come to our rescue,” said David Mbari. Two weeks ago the Ministry of Agriculture ordered for the election of directors in all KTDA run factories in line with new reforms being undertaken in the tea sector. The farmers say that although they were eager to remove some directors, the elections that were held were not free and fair due to the fact that people who were not farmers participated . KTDA directors who were in office before the ministry ordered for the exercise had obtained court orders stopping the elections and the case is still pending in court. The directors who are yet to vacate the office had moved to the high court in Nairobi saying that the exercise was illegal and void, since they have an election procedure that is set by factories who are limited companies. The farmers say that the Government should bring the two sides to a round table and agree on the way forward for their sake since they have children to take back to schools. “As farmers we fear that we may not be able to take our children back to school. This is why we are seek support from the government to bail us,” they said ADVERTISEMENT.
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The farmers said that the polls that were conducted were not free and fair hence need for streamlining the exercise. “We feel that the polls that were conducted were a sham since there was no proper identification of genuine farmers,” they said. KTDA in a communique sent to newsroom vindicate farmers views on delay in paying their monthly dues . “KTDA group informs its stakeholders that following raid on its premises by a multi- agency team on 16 April, critical ICT infrastructure hardware and documents taken away are yet to be returned .This has resulted in major disruption of its services to smallholder farmers whom we pay their monthly due on date 24 each month, ” read the statement. However the firm says that it’s doing everything possible to rectify the problem and processing of payment is in progress and ask more than 62,000 farmers to be patient . The group further say that they have nothing to hide since they conduct legitimate business and assured suppliers and business associate that they are doing everything possible to resolve the issue. Source: Capital FM
Coffee production declined by 18 per cent last year as Kenyan farmers continued shifting focus from the cash crop to the more lucrative real-estate projects, a report has shown. According to the Kenya Coffee Platform report, increase in demand for affordable housing has seen coffee farmers sell their farms for better and immediate returns to players in the real-estate sector. The report shows land previously under coffee is fast being converted into sites for the construction of blocks of flats and commercial buildings in Nyeri, Kiambu, Murang'a and Meru counties. The report further indicates the past crop year has been challenging due to declining volumes of harvested coffee as a result of adverse weather conditions and climate change. The coffee production forecast was estimated to reach 39,000 metric tonnes in the 2018/2019 crop year, but farmers produced 36, 873 metric tonnes in 2019/2020, down from 44,990 metric tonnes. Although the platform noted an expansion in the western part of the Rift Valley region, it clarifies that the expansion cannot adequately compensate for the cases of uprooting of coffee bushes in the major coffee regions in the Eastern part of the Rift. "Further, low coffee production has been attributed to other factors such as changing weather patterns and unpredictability of rains, leading to closure of wet mills in a majority of the coffee-growing areas," read the report.
Farmers hawking coffee For instance, in Nyeri County, dozens of farmers have resorted to hawking their produce as some cooperatives societies over-borrowed against their crop, leading to poor earnings in the final payment in April. The platform noted that cold conditions did not allow trees to stress, which is a necessary development that triggers flowering of the main crop. Since there has been no tree census, the platform says it is difficult to present data on acres of land that have been overtaken by real estate and other agriculture ventures that have replaced coffee farming. The study went on to note that the weather improved in the later part of the year, allowing for improved flowering for the second crop. The country exported coffee to various destinations in Europe, the US, Asia and Africa last year, with the US being the biggest export destination at 20 per cent, followed by Belgium at 17 per cent, Korea at nine per cent out of an export volume totalling 46.333 metric tonnes. Kiambu pays farmers the highest amount, followed by Kirinyaga, Murang'a and Nyeri counties. Currently, farmers are receiving payment for their produce, with the best rate being Sh100 per kilogramme. In total, Kenyan farmers produced 36, 873 metric tonnes, which earned them Sh17.4 billion. The low volumes hit some smallholder farmers who rely heavily on societies for provision of such inputs as chemicals and fertiliser on credit quite hard, with some receiving as low as Sh5. This means, on average, smallholder farmers were paid Sh45 per kilogramme of the produce they delivered to their respective factories, making it difficult for the majority of them to break even. The report also noted low producer prices and consequently low incomes for coffee-producing households have persisted since the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement (ICA) 32 years ago. "As a result, production of coffee in the country is affected by prevailing weather conditions including climate change, prevailing coffee prices, cultural practices, government policies, price support programmes and governance at farmers' institutions," the report noted. Meanwhile, players in the coffee sector now want a Sh3 billion cherry advance fund from the government to be used to refurbish factories and employ competent managers, saying that way farmers would get more value from the kitty than is the case currently. While dilapidated and old machinery in factories worked against revival of the sector, those managing the factories did not have requisite skills and this compromised the quality of clean coffee produced, they said. According to them, since there was slow uptake of the Sh3 billion kitty, with only Sh300 million disbursed, the money should be invested in areas such as value addition to revive the sector.
Coffee marketing Mikumbune Coffee Cooperative Society executive officer Josephat Kwiriga said some machines were obsolete and could not be used to pulp cherry. "This affects the quality of clean coffee we produce, which in turn affects farmers' earnings. Part of the money should go to training of officers running the factories so that they are more competent," he said. Mr Kwiriga, whose co-op society is based in Imenti South, added some factories were being managed by people well past the retirement age and who were not conversant with modern coffee marketing business model. "Instead of waiting to source for more funds to revive the factories as has been suggested, the ministry should use the money that is idle since there is a risk of it being returned to the exchequer," Mr Kwiriga added. Mr Joshua Kimathi, a farmer, said since Meru Central Coffee Cooperative Union also packages coffee, they should be funded to enable them to increase their capacity. "There are many areas of intervention that the ministry can explore and not only the cherry advance, which although helpful, is slow in terms of uptake. The revival of the sector should be approached from various fronts," said Mr Kimathi.
On Monday, Agriculture CS Peter Munya said there were plans to broaden use of the funds but did not specify areas that would benefit.
Source: Nation Media