Hope for tea farmers as factories draft fresh contracts with KTDA


Farmers load tea leaves for delivery to the Gatunguru Tea Factory in Kangema in Murang'a. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Ten tea factories are formulating fresh management contracts with the Kenya Tea Development Agency Management Services to comply with the government reforms.

Directors in the processing factories are for the first time involved in formulating the new contracts, with a technical committee appointed on Friday to kick off the process.

The technical committee is led by Prof Karanja Thiong’o, who was picked during a directors forum held at Kenol and chaired by KTDA board members Chege Kirundi (Murang’a North) and James Githinji (Murang’a South).

The directors have adopted the model initiated by Kiru Tea Factory under Kirundi, a Nairobi lawyer, three years ago.

Under the proposal, the factories will only pay their workers, with the managing agent catering for salaries and allowances of managers seconded to the processing units.

The new contracts will also capture the spirit of the reforms expressly stating that the managing agency levy has been lowered from 2.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent of factory annual turnover.

According to the directors, managers seconded by the managing agents will be placed under the respective factory boards, ending the previous trend where they exercised excessive powers and lorded it over the farmers’ representatives.

Three years ago, Kiru became the first KTDA factory to appoint its own company secretary when Bernard Kiragu was picked to offer advisory services instead of relying on the managing agents.

Githinji was elected last month to replace the late Paul Kagema who died in August, two months after he was elected to represent Murang’a South tea farmers at the agency board. He was also the chairman of the Gacharage Tea Factory in Kigumo.

The technical committee is under pressure to complete the task within 14 days,  ahead of tea growers’ general meetings, slated for this and next month, for ratification.

Kirundi said the draft will be presented to KTDA and the Ministry of Agriculture before its tabled for approval at the general meetings.

Murang’a has the highest number of smallholder tea factories countrywide and the move by the directors is likely to be copied elsewhere.

Gatunguru Tea Factory chairman Samson Kaguma said the new leadership  was determined to reward the farmers with increased earnings from their own sweat.

“We have to fight for the farmers and appreciate the government’s coming to our rescue despite stiff opposition,” he said.