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More opposing voices to draft tea regulations

By Stanley Ongwae | May 13th 2020

Tea farmers in Nyamira want President Uhuru Kenyatta not to be in a hurry to assent to the draft Report on Tea Regulations in Kenya, saying it had discrepancies.

Farmers' representatives from Kebirigo, Sang'anyi and Tombe Tea Factory Companies in Nyamira said the Report was carrying misguided recommendation on reforms of management of the tea sector and that it will erode all the gains the farmers had bargained for since independence.

The growers who were speaking at Kebirigo on Monday said the proposed changes were having several inconsistencies which, if enacted will translate to heavy losses to small-scale tea farmers.

Among the discrepancies they noted that were in the report, include scrapping of the central management of smallholder tea farming by the Kenya Tea Development Agency and regulations on marketing of the crop.

They also said the taskforce, which was appointed by the President, was noncommittal on finding out solutions to heavy taxation on tea, a matter they said was impoverishing the growers.

"Farmers are subjected to pay a total of 13 taxes from the buying center to the auction market in Mombasa. We had a similar task force that was instituted in 2007 and we never saw any of their recommendations about taxation addressed. And even the Draft which is with the President, the issue of taxation is not mentioned anywhere," said Jones Mokaya, one of the representatives of the farmers.

A raft of measures introduced by the Government to reform the tea industry has elicited mixed reactions from different stakeholders who have termed them unconstitutional as well as having huge ramifications.

The new regulations among them selling of all tea through auction as proposed by the Agriculture Ministry have elicited divergent views from farmers and economists.

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The ministry, however, said the regulations are meant to end unethical business practices, protect tea farmers from being manipulated by middlemen and also get rid of  brokers in the tea value chain who have for a long time undermined the sector through their predatory behaviour.

Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi

Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi in a letter to Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya wants the management of the 69 tea factories in the country to remain under the control of KTDA, which is a private entity as has been.

“In a liberalized economy, there must be freedom of choice for the producer to choose where to sell his produce and make profit. If all the tea produced in the country is offloaded in the auction, prices would shrink further as compared to the current situation,” stated Mudavadi in his letter to Munya.

He added: “In India, there are auctions that restrict the quantity that each factory can deliver to the auction with a view of cushioning a fluctuation in prices. This model is not tenable in Kenya as tea producers will be lumbered with surplus tea.”

According to Mudavadi, a proposal to start selling tea by private treaty (direct sales) should be outlawed as it contravenes the Competition Authority of Kenya Act and it may lead to an oversupply of the leaves hence depressed prices.

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