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Kisii’s first privately owned tea factory stirs farmers’ hopes

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By Erick Abuga | January 17th 2017
The privately owned tea factory in Nyamira County receives over six million kilos of green leaf every year. (PHOTOS SAMMY OMINGO/STANDARD)

The opening of the first privately owned tea processing factory in the Gusii region is expected to boost farmers’ earnings as competition for produce increases.

Mogeni Tea Factory in Kerumbe area, which is in Nyamira County’s North Mugirango constituency, is the brainchild of Stephen Mogeni, a retired civil servant.

Mr Mogeni, who grows tea on his 60-acre farm, decided to set up the factory after seeing his neighbours uproot the crop as poor prices took their toll on earnings.

The factory opened for business in August 2014 and has been registered under the East African Tea Trade Association. Four tea brokers in Mombasa – Tea Brokers East Africa, Choice Tea Brokers, Atlas Tea Brokers and Anjeli – market its output.

The factory receives greenleaf from outgrowers registered with it, and co-operative groups across the Gusii region. Mogeni said it currently processes 6.5 million kilogrammes of greenleaf per year.

The farmers who supply the factory are now considering going into green tea production, which they say fetches more money in international markets.

Mogeni Tea Factory has automated its production processes, and prides itself in paying promptly, providing up-to-date accounts and collecting greenleaf on time.

“Our services are digital, and tampering with farmers’ kilos is at zero level. We have built confidence among our farmers since we established our factory. We have absolute integrity in the weights registered,” said Mogeni.

The factory, however, faces several challenges, including high costs of production that are largely driven by monthly electricity bills of Sh5.5 million.

“Also, tea auction prices dropped tremendously during the last six months of 2016. The current drought has also affected production,” said Mogeni.

And his factory has to battle competition for greenleaf from factories run by the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA).

“We have a different market [from KTDA], but we also have our strengths. We have to remain consistent.”

To maximise returns and increase production, Mogeni has established three other factories on his land – a coffee factory, water purification plant and flavoured fruit juice factory. The four factories are situated on seven acres dubbed the Mogeni Industrial Area.

For all his achievements, Mogeni still feels he has some way to go before he can take a break.

“This is like a community project because I have employed several people from the surrounding area. We have to maintain this venture to bring economic gains to the community,” he said.

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