Gachagua lauds tea reforms as bonus payments hit 3-year high

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua (centre) at Samson Birgen's tea farm in Keben village, Belgut Constituency, Kericho County, in July 2023. [DPPS]

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has lauded reforms in the tea and dairy sector for the increased earnings reported by farmers this year.

Speaking during a church service in Kagere, Othaya Constituency, DP Gachagua said the tea reforms had led to the release of the highest bonus payment in the last three years.

“Gitugi tea factory in Nyeri County is the best in the country, paying out the highest bonus to its farmers, and this is a result of the efforts we have made as leaders to implement reforms,” he said.

Gitugi Tea Factory will pay Sh57.30 per kg, up from the previous of Sh41.20, as hundreds of farmers blame the prolonged drought and hawking of green leaf as the hindrance to a better bonus this year.

He promised to award tea factories that are paying higher bonuses and support those that performed dismally.

Accompanied by several leaders including Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga his Nakuru counterpart Susan Kihika, Performance PS Anne Wangombe and her Energy Counterpart Alex Wachira, Senator Wahome Wamatinga, County MP Mukami Wachira, Othaya MP Wambugu Wainaina, Njoroge Wainaina, (Kieni), and Geoffrey Wandeto (Tetu), among others.

DP Gachagua also welcomed the increased prices in the dairy sector, noting to the brokers the price of milk had increased to Sh50 per litre.

“The dairy sector has seen a steady increase in the price of milk, and we are working towards Sh60 per litre. However, I ask brokers to stop exploiting farmers and pay fair prices for the produce,” he said.

The DP raised concern over the slow pace of reforms in the coffee sector, blaming the decline in earnings to shadowy cartels creating an artificial crisis in the market.

“We are still fighting off the coffee cartels that have become too entrenched in the sector and are currently creating an artificial crisis in the market,” Gachagua said.

He said the sector was dominated by a small group of people who buy the coffee at a throw-away price and sell the same to the highest bidder, pocketing huge profits.

Referencing the recent low activity at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange (NCE), Gachagua said the cartels claim that farmers had refused to sell their coffee and buyers were shunning the market.

“They are trying to create an artificial crisis by claiming that buyers are refusing to purchase the coffee through the NCE, so they can force the government to allow direct sales,” he said.

Mr Gachagua noted the government was in the process of drafting legislation to reform the sector that would ensure millers, marketers, and sellers were separate entities.

“The law will be very clear. You cannot be a marketer, miller and seller these roles and functions should be separate,” he said.

The DP blamed current sector players for frustrating farmers by claiming that 35 per cent of coffee was lost to milling losses, failure to grade fairly and failure to disclose the sale prices.

“I am calling for patience from the farmers so they can benefit. It will not be an easy road to reforms as we try to revive the coffee board of Kenya and New Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (NEW KPCU),” he said.

He reiterated that the region was united and any differences of opinion were superficial.

“Our foundation is solid and are unified deep down. However, we may have some cracks emerging because of different opinions. However, they are superficial and do not threaten our unity,” he said.