A tea agency has opposed plans by the county government to allow individuals to purchase and process the commodity.
The Kenya Tea Development Agency claimed that this would encourage tea hawking and reduce farmers’ earnings.
Embu Governor Martin Wambora recently unveiled plans to form a county tea development board to sell the commodity in the three factories in the region. Mr Wambora said the board would be above KTDA in the pecking order and that private tea buyers would be allowed to buy tea in the area.
“We are going to follow the route of Kericho to help farmers earn more money. The move to create the Embu tea board will accelerate competition with the private sector. KTDA will be below our board,” he said.
However, the Embu region KTDA director, Samuel Ireri, and the Mungania Tea Factory chairman, Julius Munthungu, warned that licensing other entities apart from KTDA would cause confusion.
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“Many people think KTDA is a parastatal, but it is a private company that acts on behalf of farmers. The agency spearheads the growing, processing and marketing of tea. It pays farmers well and through the KTDA Foundation, supports education, health and environmental programmes,” he said.
Mr Ireri said some of the factories that were not allied to KTDA were exploiting farmers by paying them as little as Sh20. KTDA, he said, paid Mungania Tea Factory farmers Sh73.50 for a kilo of tea last season.
The officials were speaking after planting fruit seedlings in schools surrounding the factory in a campaign aimed at improving the environment and boosting farmers’ nutrition.
The KTDA officials said the confusion over the role of the agency was caused by some leaders who “do not even know how the tea sector works”.
The head of the KTDA Foundation, Sudi Matara, said the agency had given out 120 tanks to schools in tea zones to help them water plants.