Mt Kenya tea factories yet to recruit managing agents

Tea processing at Chinga Tea Factory in Othaya, Nyeri. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

With barely days left for the tea processing factories to comply with the registration of the new management agents' agreement contracts, only firms in the West of the Rift have concluded the process.

The smallholder-run factories have until May 2, to appoint management agents with conditions to pay the seconded staff ending the current scenario where the farmers incur those costs.

The Standard has learned that 35 tea factories in the West of Rift have complied with the timeline of the reform set by the Tea Board of Kenya (TBK), in accordance with the Tea Regulations 2020.

TBK has licensed KTDA MS,  Tropical,  Eastern Produce Kenya, and Williamson Tea as the managing agents after they demonstrated the capacity to manage the lucrative sector.

In the East of Rift, the factories directors through their caucus have written to TBK seeking an extension of the deadline of 21 days to ensure they comply with the tender process.

Mt Kenya Tea Caucus chairman Prof Joseph Karanja said the region was interested in picking the best managing agents, thus the need for the extension of time.

Karanja said they have invited the firms through a tender system seeking to submit their technical and financial proposals to the boards where the directors will also hear them.

"The boards also wish to interrogate them to ensure they give the farmers the best eying increased payment and reduced production cost," said Karanja adding that May 2, the deadline is too soon to get the best player.

Tea directors from the East of Rift Valley have been meeting in Embu to work on the final draft with KTDA based on paying the agency 1.5 percent of the annual sale reduced from the current 2.5 percent.

In Murang'a county which has 10 processing factories, the directors led by Chege Kirundi from Kiru tea factory drafted the proposal outlining a five-year contract term with the managing agent paying salaries of the seconded staff among other modalities.

Kirundi also the KTDA board member representing Kiru, Gatunguru, Kanyenyaini, and Githambo Tea factories said the tea growers are interested in more returns from the sector, thus the boards should pick the best and most qualified agent.

"Murang'a county factories prepared a draft management contract presenting the interest of the growers in reducing the cost of production," said Kirundi.

TBK Director Charles Kirigwi representing farmers in the counties of Murang'a, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Embu, Meru, and Nyeri says the factories have until April 30, to conclude the exercise.

Kirigwi said the agreement will guide the directors and the management agents unlike in the past when there were wrangles.

"In the contract, the factories are not supposed to pay more than 1.5 percent," said Kirigwi.