Tea farmers’ bonus drops by a third

Kenya Tea Development Agency Holdings Ltd Group CEO Lerionka Tiampati during a press conference in Nairobi on Thursday, September 03, 2019 on 2018/2019 Financial Year final payment to smallholder tea farmers [David Njaaga, Standard]


Tea farmers will get reduced earnings following a drop in the commodity’s global prices due to a mix of factors including turmoil in key international markets.

KTDA will pay Sh28 billion this year in tea bonus, which is a drop from Sh44 billion farmers earned last year.

Farmers whose produce is marketed by the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) have seen their earnings decline by a quarter or 25 percent to Sh46.45 billion in the financial year to June compared to Sh62 billion last year.

The last time tea earnings were this low was in 2014 when the farmers earned Sh35.5 billion.

The payment to smallholder farmers is done in two tranches, with an initial payment made every month while a final payment is made after the close of the financial year, usually around October.

The second payment known as the tea bonus is popular and usually brings life to tea growing regions. It will, however, not be the case this year as the bonus payment dips by 36 percent to Sh28 billion, compared to Sh44 billion in the previous financial year.

The farmers have already earned Sh17.69 billion in initial monthly payments and will receive Sh28.76 billion as the second payment, bringing the total payout for the 2018/19 financial year to Sh46.45 billion.

KTDA Managing Director Lerionka Tiampati said the decline has been attributed to global factors that have pushed down the price of tea.

These included higher tea production globally, while consumption remained stagnant as well as ills afflicting Kenya’s major tea markets that have in recent years been cutting down on tea imports.

Pakistan’s devaluation of its currency by 50 percent made tea imports expensive. Iran, a key market for Kenyan tea, is grappling with sanctions spearheaded by the US, while Sudan is grappling with a political crisis. The UK, another key market, plans to exit the European Union causing more anxiety.

Tiampati noted that other tea producing countries including Kenyan neighbours Uganda and Rwanda as well as major competitors such as Sri Lanka has also been affected by the slump in tea prices.

“Due to these factors, the current performance is 18 percent below last year’s performance when the factories earned Sh85.74 billion. Out of the Sh69.77 billion revenues, farmers will receive a total of Sh46.45 billion, being the sum total of Sh17.69 billion in the initial monthly payment and Sh28.76 billion as second and final payment” explained Tiampati at a briefing yesterday.

“The payout represents an average of 67 percent of the total revenue (Sh85.74 billion) with farmers receiving an average of Sh41.27 per kilogram.”

During the year, tea was sold at an average price of $2.59 (Sh259) per kilogram compared to $3.14 (Sh314) the previous year, representing an 18 percent drop.

KTDA factories processed 1.13 billion kilograms of the green leaf into 262 million kilograms of black tea.

Tiampati also noted that production costs for the KTDA managed factories have been going up eating into the earnings of farmers, owing to the high costs of labour and energy. The factories have in recent years set up hydropower stations that are helping manage rising energy costs. The small hydros are also expected to earn money from feeding excess electricity into the national power grid.

“To reduce the rising costs of production, factories are investing in small hydropower stations to deliver affordable and reliable power supply to factories. Some of these stations that have been completed and are generating electricity include Imenti, Gura, Chania, and North Mathioya. The factories have also automated factory processes and established wood plantations that are expected to be a long term source of wood fuel for factories,” he said.

He also reckons that there has been a rise in the number of competing factories, many of them without tea acreage and have been buying tea from farmers who are supposed to deliver to KTDA factories.

“Tea hawking has led to a reduction in the amount of green leaf available to some factories, thereby adversely affecting operating capacity and quality of leaf available for processing,” said Tiampati.


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