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Governors take CS Munya’s tea rules battle to the courts

By Wainaina Wambu | October 6th 2020
From left: Governors Stephen Sang, James Nyoro (partially hidden) Muthomi Njuki, Paul Chepkwony and Kiraitu Murungi during the Press briefing on Monday, October 6, 2020. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Governors have vowed to block the operationlisation of the new tea sector regulations being championed by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya.

The Council of Governors (CoG) resolved to move to court to challenge the regulations, which they termed illegal and unconstitutional, as county governments were not involved.

CoG Agriculture Committee chair Muthomi Njuki urged Mr Munya to withdraw the regulations, raising at least 12 concerns with them.

Contradict Act

“The proposed regulations contradict the Companies Act provisions on how the tea firms conduct their affairs. These regulations are an affront to the principles of devolution and practices,” said Mr Njuki, who is also Tharaka Nithi governor.

The regulations seek to ban direct sales, which they argue earn poor farmers five per cent more than any auction price.

“The auction as presently constituted is prone to manipulation, price-fixing by cartels and this is not an efficient method of selling tea, hence the regulation cannot prescribe it as the only efficient method of selling tea.”

Njuki wants tea marketing through direct sales encouraged, provided the registered price for the buyer is higher than the auction sale price.

He said the regulations also increased the costs of obtaining certificates and licenses, as farmers would have to travel to Nairobi.

The county boss said reverting KTDA to the government was a misplaced idea. “KTDA reforms should be undertaken by the government to suit their needs,” he said.

KTDA, which is set to lose its hold of the 69 factories it manages countrywide if the rules come into place, has been one of the regulations’ biggest critics.

The governors regretted the re-centralisation of agriculture, saying it would roll back the economic gains already achieved. “The proposed regulations will take us back to the colonial days of government controls of tea matters,” he said.

Njuki observed that tea farmers and county governments were excluded from the tea sector reforms introduced by the national government.

Defended regulations

Munya has strongly defended the new tea regulations, insisting they will streamline the sub-sector. He insists that “thorough” consultation was done.

The new rules are meant to implement reforms that President Uhuru Kenyatta issued early this year.

They have been met with mixed reactions, with those supporting them saying KTDA’s “exploitation” of farmers will end.  

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