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Lobbies give tea reforms thumbs up

Smallholder tea farmers lobbies have welcomed reforms proposed for the tea sector through the Tea Industry (2020) Rules.

A peak into several memorandums sent to the Ministry of Agriculture at the close of public participation window, show overwhelming support to changes in tea factory governance, relations with management agents and running of the Mombasa Tea Auction. 

"These are the key reforms that we are interested in and we believe will change fortunes of the farmer," said Ndegwa Wanyaga, a former Chinga Tea Factory director who leads a lobby bringing together Mt Kenya tea farmers.

The lobby christened Tea Farmers Action Group said it supported the abolishing of the direct overseas sales (DSO) and that all tea sales go through the Mombasa auction.

But the Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA), which manages 69 factories on behalf of over 700,000 smallholder farmers, has already submitted its own objections to some of the proposals in the draft regulations, saying they risked to torpedo Kenya's dominance of international tea trade.

In its presentations, KTDA claimed that outlawing the DSO will shift buyers to other African producers and that reducing its 2.5 per cent management fee on factories will erode the cocktail of services it offers and possibly rob farmers economies of scale.

The agency has also dismissed a proposal to pay 50 per cent of farmers produce each month, saying the tea sales cycle from production to auction was 60 days long.

The Tea Farmers Action Group however also supported remitting of sales proceeds directly to the factory within 14 days and payment to farmers of at least 50 per cent of the realised price every month and the rationale of balance payment to be determined by farmers themselves in each factory. 

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