The Ministry of Agriculture and the Council of Governors have formed a task force to resolve the raging row between former directors of smallholder tea factories and their successors who were elected last year.
Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi said while the government had outlawed attempts by the former directors to take over the management of KTDA Holdings and the smallholder tea factories, it recognised that multiple legal cases had slowed down reforms in the subsector.
“The government will not allow interference with the management of tea farmers' properties and therefore urges those aggrieved by the elections that were held last year by smallholder tea farmers to await the conclusion of the cases filed in court,” said Linturi.
But to unlock the implementation of the Tea Act, 2020, the ministry has set up a task force to help resolve some of the cases that were filed by the former directors and the former management of Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) and smallholder tea factories.
It was not immediately clear who the members of the task force are.
Linturi spoke at the annual smallholder tea conference which brings together over 400 directors, senior management and stakeholders of the 71 KTDA-managed tea factories across 16 counties.
The forum enables stakeholders to receive updates on the performance of the tea industry, discuss emerging issues within the tea industry and discuss the way forward.
“While the government has no intention of engaging in business, it will continue to pay particular attention to the performance of the tea sub-sector to ensure it continues to play its rightful role in Kenya’s economy,” said Linturi.
He admitted that the tea industry has been facing a myriad of challenges which threaten its sustainability.
Linturi identified some of these challenges as the high cost of production occasioned by the rising cost of inputs such as fertiliser, labour and electricity.
He also cited poor governance in the management of the smallholder tea sub-sector and disruptions in the international markets due to the Russian-Ukraine crisis that has affected the purchasing power in some of our international tea markets.
The CS said the government had given a Sh4.44 billion fertiliser subsidy to tea farmers thereby reducing the cost of fertilizer by Sh2,117 per 50 Kilo bag from Sh5,617 to Sh3,500.
He also spoke about the concept paper prepared by the Tea Board of Kenya and awaiting Cabinet approval to incentivize tea value addition.