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Tea farmers in Kenya to earn more in 2015-16 bonus payments

A fire started by farmers attached to Thumaita factory. They were protesting against low bonus rates. [PHOTO: MUNENE KAMAU/STANDARD]

Over 250,000 small-scale tea farmers in Mt Kenya region will in the next few days receive their bonuses.

The bulk of the money will be paid out to small-scale tea farmers in Nyeri, Murang'a, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Embu, Tharaka Nithi and Meru counties where the crop is widely cultivated.

According to calculations being worked on by Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), the bonuses for the 2015-16 year will increase by 50 per cent compared to the previous year.

Confidential KTDA data obtained by The Standard shows farmers across the region are expected to pocket between Sh40 and Sh48 per kilogramme, a significant improvement from previous years.

What individual farmers are to take home, however, will depend on the different factories. Some factories will enjoy good prices due to quality of their tea and cost of production.

In Kirinyaga, farmers affiliated to one factory have gone on the rampage over the impending payments (see separate story). But farmers associated with Mununga Factory in Kirinyaga are a happy lot after receiving Sh48.35, the highest amount in bonus. Those who take their green leaves to Kimunye will be paid Sh47.40 per kilo. Farmers affiliated to Ndima factory have received Sh45.50, Kangaita Sh42.26 and Thumaita Sh41.50.

A survey by The Standard shows farmers in five factories in zone four in Nyeri posted better bonuses than the previous year. Gitugi tea factory earned the highest amount in the region after receiving Sh46.50, up from Sh34.20. Gathuthi factory, which posted the highest payments rates in 2014-15 in zone four, came second at Sh46 up from Sh34.80.

Farmers at Iria-ini Tea Factory who received bonuses at rate of Sh30.25 in 2014-15 have boosted their earnings to Sh40. Others Include Ragati in Mathira which posted a rate of Sh39.80 up from Sh28, with Chinga Tea Factory in Othaya getting the least rate of Sh39.80 up from Sh29.25.

 Kionyo tea

In Meru, Imenti Tea Factory, in Imenti South and one of the largest in the region, will pay farmers Sh46 per kilo of their tea leaves. Kionyo Tea Factory will pay Sh43, while Kinoro Tea Factory will pay Sh41.

Mungania, Kathangariri and Rukuriri tea factories will give a bonus of Sh44.20, Sh44.20 and Sh46.00 respectively, up from Sh34.20, Sh32.20 and Sh36.50.

Yesterday, KTDA chairman Peter Kanyago said even though the official rates will be announced next week, farmers will be paid better bonuses compared to the previous year.

Kanyago attributed the improved payment rates to better prices at the auction as well as the quality of tea.

"We will officially announce the results next week, but I can tell you rates are far much better than in previous years," the chairman confirmed.

Tea farmers have welcomed a proposal by the national Government to remove ad valorem tax, which was only being levied on Kenya tea alone at the auction. The removal is expected to help improve sales and volumes of tea from the country in international markets.

James Wachira, a tea farmer and director at Irai-ini factory in Nyeri, said there were many levies being charged on the product, which were gradually eating on farmer earnings.

"The many taxes and cess being imposed by both national and county governments have been a big burden to farmers. We hope what was being passed to us by buyers who used to pay the tax will trickle down to us," Mr Wachira explained.

He said farmers are paid Sh15 up from Sh14 monthly on one kilogramme of tea but tea pickers, who were previously being paid Sh10, are now demanding Sh11.

 "We feel good that the Government is moving in to alleviate our suffering. It should consider waiving more taxes to improve our earning," George Maina, a farmer in Gathuthi, added.

Mr Maina is hopeful the bonus for coming years will be better, considering the tax will have been removed.

KTDA has also lauded the decision to remove the tax which it said was imposed at the time of transaction and was being charged to marketers.

-Additional reporting by Boniface Gikandi, Phares Mutembei and Joseph Muchiri.

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