The tea Banda at the Kipchimchim ward is among the tens of similar facilities in Ainamoi Constituency which have been shut down for the last two weeks as 12,000 farmers belonging to Toror tea factory fight for separation from Tegat tea factory.
The farmers’ decision have literally grounded tea processing activities at Toror tea factory.
The furious tea farmers have been on the alternative, plucking and delivering their tea leaves to alternative privately owned tea factories.
Toror tea farmers’ spokesman John Chebochok said their current boycott to deliver green leaf to the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) factory will continue until their demands are met.
“The first reason why we want separation from Tegat factory is because the farmers completed three years ago repaying the multimillion commercial loan which was used to construct Toror tea factory,” he said.
The former senior factory manager at Finlay’s Tea Company added that though Toror farmers could have earned Sh37 per kilogram of tea the amalgamation had slashed the amount to Sh30.
“We literally donated Sh7 to Tegat factory. This means that if a Toror farmer supplied 1,000 kilogram of tea, he or she lost Sh7, 000,” said Chebochok.
He argued that when Toror factory tea was established in 2007 it was registered as a limited company.
“We have competent staff who can run the factory, we don’t need any assistance,” said Chebochok.
He added that the other factor was because Toror factory’s cost of tea processing was lower compared to Tegat.
Seven Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) who joined the farmers at a tense meeting held outside Toror's factory premises expressed solidarity with the small-holder tea farmers.
The MCAs were; Paul Chirchir (Kapsoit) Bernard Mutai (Kipchimchim) Erick Koskei (Kapsaos) and Cheruiyot Bett(Ainamoi), Collins Beigon ( Kipchebor) Evans Ngeno ( Cheborge) and Erick Bett (Kipchebor).
“Eastern rift region is under represented at the Kenya Tea Development Board management level. The reason why we support Toror’s tea factory members separation from Tegat are well as separation from Rorok from Kapset tea factory is because we want south rift tea farmers to have more representation at the Agency Board,” said Chirchir.
On his part, Mutai warned if KTDA will refuse to yield to the farmers demand, they will seek its disbandment.
“Agriculture is a devolved function and therefore tea management should be placed under the counties,” said the Kipchimchim ward representative.
Bett, lamented that though 68 per cent of tea is derived from KTDA’s western region, it was being overlooked in employment and other opportunities.
KTDA in its official social media page stated that factories including Toror and Rorok are fully owned subsidiaries of the parent companies.
“In this case Tegat and Kapset tea companies respectively own subsidiaries. They belong to all the shareholders of the parent factory. It is not feasible to separate the satellite factories from parent factory” read part of the statement.
It further stated that those willing to acquire the satellite factories will need to pay off the other shareholders of the parent factory