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Senators side with governors to block new tea regulations

By Wainaina Wambu | November 13th 2020
A tea farmer affiliated to Gatunguru Tea Factory in Kangema, Muran'ga, on her tea farm. There is no fertilizer application during this short rains season after the K.T.D.A Agency suspended importation of the commodity early this year which was occasioned by the Covid 19 pandemic. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Legislators join governors in punching holes in regulations, saying they exclude counties despite agriculture being a devolved function.

Two Senate committees have rejected new tea sector regulations, dealing a blow to efforts by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya to institute reforms in the industry.

In a report tabled in Parliament, the Sessional Committee on Delegated Legislation and the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries resolved not to accede to the Crops (Tea Industry) Regulations, 2020, and recommended that the Senate annuls the regulations in their entirety.

The senators now follow the Council of Governors in opposing the rules, which they termed unconstitutional since the county governments were not involved.

If passed, the regulations would have seen the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) lose its stranglehold on the 69 factories it manages across the country, ending what critics term exploitation of farmers.

Delegated Legislation Committee chairman Mohammed Faki said some of the regulations were not in the interest of counties.

He said they failed to provide for the role of the counties despite agriculture being a devolved function.

“The committee did not accede to the Crops (Tea Industry) Regulations, 2020 and will be seeking a resolution of the Senate to annul them as some of the provisions were not in the interest of counties,” Senator Faki told the House yesterday.

“The regulations should clearly provide for the role of the counties noting that agriculture is a devolved function.”


Streamline sector

Mr Munya has recently come out strongly to defend the regulations, insisting they will streamline the sub-sector. He also said “thorough” consultations were done.

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The new rules are meant to implement reforms that President Uhuru Kenyatta issued early this year but have been met with mixed reactions.

Tea is Kenya’s third-largest foreign exchange earner and contributes about four per cent to the country’s gross domestic product.

But a majority of farmers, especially smallholders, have little to show for it.

The rules seek to change how factory directors are elected. However, the committees’ report says the changes on boards of tea factories will interfere with the internal affairs of private companies and may amount to over-regulation of the industry, stifling growth.

“The regulation is too prescriptive, intrudes into the affairs of private companies, will stifle private enterprise and thus amounts to over-regulation,” said the senators.

The two committees said they had taken an in-depth look at the regulations and received submissions from various stakeholders.

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