The Senate Ad Hoc committee on tea and Kericho leaders have declared war on tea cartels.
Five senators, Aron Cheruiyot (Chairman) Cleophas Malala (Kakamega), Sam Ongeri (Kisii) Christopher Langat (Bomet), Mercy Chebeni (nominated) said they will address the plight of small- holder tea farmers through recommendations in the report to be tabled in senate and handed over to President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“It pains me that though Kenya is known as an agricultural country, farmers’ fortunes are dwindling day by day. There is a clique of people who don’t own even a single tea bush but benefit greatly from the farmers’ toil. As the senate Ad hoc committee on tea we are ready to fight the tea cartels by all means necessary,” said Senator Malala.
Speaking during the committee’s session at Kericho’s Moi gardens, the Senate Deputy Minority leader argued that it beats logic for tea farmers to be compelled to pay 42 forms of taxes.
“We will not allow small-scale tea farmers to be burdened more than any other cadre of farmers because they are all equal. The senate will recommend the long list of tea taxes be abolished,” said Malala.
Senator Cheruiyot demanded that just like Turkana County which entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the national government for it to get 25 per cent of Oil revenue, Kericho and Bomet County must get the same percentage.
“Out of the Sh130B which is derived from the tea exports, Kericho and Bomet County must get 25 per cent of the amount,” he said.
The Kericho senator said the amount should then be channeled to infrastructural, educational and health projects to benefit the residents.
“Tea is what oil is to Turkana residents. The crop is our wealth and we must benefit in a major way from it,” said Cheruiyot.
Governor Paul Chepkwony who handed to the senate committee the Kericho Assembly Report on satellite tea factories push for autonomy from mother factories, declared that he will follow the legal procedures to address the farmers’ woes.
“The tea industry woes require several approaches that is why I moved to the High Court where a three judge bench is listening to the matter and will determine the truth over every issue of exploitation raised by small-scale tea farmers,” he said.
The governor filed a constitutional petition against Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) seeking a refund of Sh87B to tea farmers.
Belgut MP Nelson Koech and his Ainamoi counterpart Sylvanus Maritim told multinational tea companies to launch major Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs.
“Kericho residents must enjoy some benefits of tea in our land which is under lease to the United Kingdom based companies. They must not frustrate us to the point of thinking of invading the farms and uproot the tea bushes,” said Koech.
Maritim lamented the high cost of transporting tea to the Mombasa tea auction and petitioned the Jubilee administration to extend the Standard Gauge Railway to Kericho to ease transportation of the crop.
“We require Internal Collection Terminal within Kericho to enable farmers reduce the cost of transporting tea from Mombasa Tea Auction,” said the Ainamoi MP.
John Chebochok, accused the KTDA for allegedly slashing 500gms per weighment from tea farmers and therefore earn Sh200m per day at the expense of the farmers.
“This must come to a stop,” he said.
Senator Cheruiyot at the same time petitioned the government to turn the anti-graft spotlight on the tea industry.
“We ask President Uhuru Kenyatta that once the corruption in the National Youth Service (NYS) and other mega scandals in other government institutions is dealt with, he should turn the focus to the tea industry. It is riddled with corruption and cartels who have for years forced farmers to toil for nothing,” he said.