Tea farmers call for better equipment

A worker at the Iriani tea factory in Othaya, Nyeri. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Tea farmers want the government to equip all tea factories with modern machines to help them attain uniform payment.

Alex Muturi said some farmers were earning far less than their counterparts due to lack of modern technology.

Muturi spoke during a public participation exercise organised by the Senate Agriculture Committee in Nyeri and Kirinyaga counties to discuss two Bills on the tea and coffee sectors.

“If all factories had the Orthodox machines they could be at the same level of tea processing and selling,” he said.

Mark Mwangi urged the government to zero rate the importation tax of tea packaging machinery.

“Today we are selling our tea at a high price but we can barely make profit with the high cost of importation of tea packaging machines. The government should lower taxes on agricultural inputs so that farmers can enjoy the fruits of their hard work,” said Mwangi.

The committee led by Kirinyaga Senator James Murango held the forums on the Tea Amendment Bill and Coffee Bill 2023 - which propose amendments aimed at ensuring farmers reap profits from the cash crops.

Many farmers have abandoned tea and coffee farming due to the high cost of production.

Mwangi said the current tea management agreement which gives KTDA powers to control finances, including proceeds from sales of tea at the auction, should be amended and the powers given to directors.

“At the moment only factory managers know how much their tea fetch at the auction and money is deposited at agency pool account which only top managers run,” he said

David Mwangi said the government should to fund the tea board and not tea farmers.

“With the little earnings tea farmers make, they still have to pay one per cent levy to the tea board which is a government entity. For farmers to benefit, let the government fund the board,” he said.

Coffee farmers want the government to open up the marketing of the crop by scrapping the Nairobi coffee exchange. Joseph Mwangi said for farmers to benefit fully from their produce, the government should allow farmers to sell their crops directly to international buyers.

He said that farmers want the government to allow farmers to conduct independent coffee sampling to avoid being tricked by millers.

In Kirinyaga, farmers said they want a 50 per cent representation at the Coffee Board of Kenya.

Kirinyaga Coffee Farmers Unions chairperson Kimani Gatuguta said when farmers are represented in the board their issues will be taken seriously.