Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) directors from smallholder tea factories in the West Rift have forged a caucus seeking to address unique challenges leading to low tea earnings in the region.
The West Rift Smallholder Tea Factories Directors' Caucus also wants to align its operations to conform with the ongoing reforms in the tea sub-sector.
The caucus brings together KTDA directors from 40 tea processing facilities that comprise 19 major factories and their affiliates.
“We have resolved to form an association that will enable us to address challenges and issues which are unique to the West Rift bloc. Absorption of our made tea in external markets, identifying new markets and also concerns on high levies in the sector are among our major concerns,” said David Rono, the chairman of the caucus.
KTDA has two major blocs in the country - the West Rift bloc and the East bloc.
The West caucus brings together directors of KTDA factories from Nakuru, Bomet, Nyamira, Kisii, Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Western and Trans Nzoia counties.
“For the benefit of tea farmers, we want to share ideas that will enhance the quality of production and earnings and make the sector more vibrant. This will enable us to compare experiences with East of Rift who are currently making higher earnings in second payments (bonus)," said Mr Rono.
Speaking during a meeting of the directors in Eldoret, he said slowed absorption of made tea from the West Rift has led to substantial stocks in godowns in Mombasa.
“Our goal is to identify new markets to boost sales and earnings for smallholder farmers. The conflict in Sudan and the Ukraine-Russia war has slowed down absorption of tea since they are major consumers of tea sourced from the West Rift, particularly Grade BB1,” said Mr Rono.
He also noted that the current price of an average of $2.5 per kilo of made tea is still low.
Mr Rono said the caucus would lobby the government to reduce levies in the tea sector to improve earnings and enable farmers to increase output.
“Tea is a food item, and we shall be asking the government to consider reducing taxes on this sector. We also thank the government for the reforms under the Tea Act 2020, which saw enhanced earnings last year,” he said.
Mr Rono commended the government's subsidised fertiliser programme, saying it has helped improve production.