The newly formed West of Rift Smallholder Tea Growers Association now wants the government to waive taxes on equipment used in processing the produce.
The association, which brings together farmers affiliated with Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) factories in the region, said reducing taxes on value-addition facilities would help farmers expand the sector and boost foreign exchange earnings.
The association was launched at the weekend following a three-day consultative forum of West of Rift smallholder tea factories’ directors.
The directors were drawn from 40 KTDA processing plants in the West of Rift bloc that comprised 19 major factories and their affiliates.
“Smallholder tea farmers in our bloc have huge potentials in the agricultural tea sub-sector, which are yet to be exploited. We are sensitising farmers on quality husbandry as they expand production acreage of the cash crop,” said association chairman David Rono.
Rono said ongoing reforms under the Tea Act of 2020 have helped smallholders record improved earnings and have also been boosted by the government’s fertiliser subsidy programme.
The subsidy programme has enabled producers to procure the input for top-dressing at Sh2,500 this year, down from Sh3,500 the previous year.
“Following a consultative forum of West of Rift smallholder tea factories directors meeting, it was resolved that an association be established to champion challenges unique to our region,” said Rono.
KTDA has two blocs comprising West of Rift and East of Rift. The former brings together smallholders who supply their produce to factories in Nakuru, Bomet, Kericho, Nyamira, Kisii, Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Western and Trans Nzoia regions.
“We are in discussion with the government for support in setting up a common user facility for value-added tea from our factories in West of Rift. This includes packaging as we target international markets. We call for reductions in taxes for tea processing equipment,” said Rono.
Dr Abel Kenyoru, the vice-chairman of the association, said their unity through the association will enable farmers to earn better returns.
Kenyoru also noted that the weakening shilling against the dollar was a blessing in disguise for tea farmers, who are now generating better income from the international market.
“We are also pushing for scientific quality testing for tea to ensure fairness in the market. We want fair criteria to ensure uniformity,” he said.