By MUNENE KAMAU
Tea farmers from Mt Kenya region have threatened to resort to mass action if a 500 per cent increase on levies charged on their processed produce is not lifted.
A Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) board member Gerald Munene accused the Government of hiking the levy, which was introduced through the Tea Amendment Act from a mere 46 cents per Kg of ready tea to Sh2.50 at the auction.
Speaking at Kangaita section of Mt Kenya forest in Kirinyaga County after leading a tree planting exercise on Saturday, Munene said the TBK was behind the move.
He noted that TBK Kenya was currently receiving Sh98 million from the levy, which is charged on processed tea and if the exorbitant hike is allowed, it will be receiving Sh500 million per year.
Munene, who was accompanied by several board of directors from five tea factories from KTDA's Zone Five said unless the move was reversed, famers will have no alternative but to engage in mass action to the detriment of the tea industry which is a major foreign exchange earner for the country.
He said six factories in the area will plant more than 750,000 tree seedlings during this rainy season to restore the destroyed environment.
And KTDA Kirinyaga Zonal Manager Peter Kinyua said six factories in the region are set to construct a mini hydropower plant at a cost of Sh600 million in a bid to reduce power bills.
He said each factory spends an average of Sh40 million on electricity annually, which translates to Sh240 million for the six factories.
The factories are Mununga, Ndima, Kangaita, Kimunye, Thumaita and Ragati.
The mini hydropower project, he said, will produce 3.2 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to run the six factories when fed to the national grid, thereby reducing the billsÂf burden for the small scale farmers.