KAKAMEGA: Most tea farmers in Vihiga County, faced with persistent challenges and poor prices for the commodity, have ventured into growing other crops.
Solomon Alitsi from Sabatia constituency, who embraced tea farming in 1963, says some of the challenges that have forced farmers to quit include high cost of production, poor weather and dwindling market prices.
"The crop is less profitable at the moment but I am still soldering on. Poor prices has been a major setback for tea farmers in Vihiga and other parts of the country. Most farmers decided to abandon the crop five years ago," say the retired teacher.
However, he recalls with nostalgia how in the 90s he got a bonus of over Sh300,000.
"Those were the good times every farmer longs for. I hope this will happen again," he adds.
He sells 1kg of plucked tea leaves at between Sh8 to Sh10 at Mudete Tea Factory, although the price was more years ago.
Alitsi is optimistic that tea fortunes will improve if the Government addresses the plight of farmers in the country.
"This is a viable sector for the growth of the country's economy. We hope the Government comes to our aid to ensure prices don't fluctuate," says the farmer.
Tea production has been on the decline in the county. The only tea factory in the county, Mudete Tea Factory, has been operating at below 40 per cent.
In the last financial year, the county allocated Sh20 million for subsidised fertilisers.
"The allocation aims to improve food production and reduce the cost of farm inputs. I know most farmers have abandoned tea farming due to several challenges. We intend to address the issue by increasing tea farms," says Vihiga Governor Moses Akaranga.