Tea farmers count losses over delayed green leaf collection

 

A tea farmer affiliated to Gathuthi Tea Factory after delivering his produce at Ndugamano Tea Buying Collection Center, after calling off the tea boycott strike which took five days. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Tea growers in Bomet County have incurred huge losses after a tea factory delayed the collection of green leaves.

The smallholder tea growers supply green leaves to the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) owned Tirgaga tea factory.

Farmers drawn from Singorwet and Ndaraweta zones have been forced to dispose of hundreds of kilos of green leaf in buying centres following the delayed collection.

A spot check by The Standard showed green leaves plucked more than one week ago wasting away in buying centres in the two zones.

The affected farmers have been forced to sell their produce to private factories at throw-away prices.

“We are selling our produce to private factories which is hurting our income,” said Benard Ng'eno one of the farmers from Tirgaga.

He said the delays and slowed collections had seen farmers record minimal sales over the last four months.

“Our factory collects tea from our buying centres once a week and that has left us confused and we have now resorted to selling our tea to private factories who aggressively collect tea day and night,” said Ng'eno.

The farmers staged a protest and marched to the factory to seek answers from the management.

Anti-riot police lobbed teargas canisters to disperse the farmers who were protesting outside the factory.

The officers termed the protest illegal saying the farmers had not sought a permit to hold the demonstrations.

The twig-wielding farmers accused the factory management of running it down.

“The rains have been favourable and our farms are doing well but it is sad when the factory fails to collect tea and give the way forward,” said one of the farmers.

Ng'eno asked KTDA to intervene and address the issue saying the local management was failing.

“In times of crisis like this we expected the factory management to constantly communicate including sharing tea picking schedule to avoid tea going to waste both in the farms and buying centres but they have failed and KTDA regional and head office should intervene and help address the issue,” he said.

Julie Kiruia, a farmer said casuals picking tea from her farms have been going hungry because of the situation.

“I cannot pay casuals I engage to pick tea because the produce has not been collected by the factory and this is not fair at all,” she said and called for an urgent solution to the matter.

The farmers also criticised police of using excessive force to disperse the peaceful protest.

Five farmers were injured after police hit them with batons and gun buts.

The farmers have asked the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) to investigate the officers attached to Silibwet Police Station in Bomet Central.

“It is wrong for the police to use excessive force on unarmed farmers marching peacefully and because we have farmers injured and hurt, IPOA should intervene,” they said.

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