Kericho farmers turn hostile against tea reforms
Small scale tea farmers from the Kenya Tea Development Agency have turned hostile to tea reforms and government plans to convert KTDA into a parastatal
Speaking during a National Assembly Committee on delegated legislation public hearing at Litein and Momul tea factories, speaker after speaker petitioned Agriculture CS Peter Munya to recall the tea reforms.
"Tea is the only crop we rely on to feed our families and educate our children. We will not allow anyone to meddle and destroy it," said David Langat.
KTDA directors Richard Rono and Jonathan Mutai said the new regulations risk driving buyers away from Kenya's tea sector.
"When for instance the government demands a buyer spends money in value addition even before making a sale, it will make the Kenyan tea unfavourable in the market," said Mutai.
The Tegat Tea factory director added that the requirement for each tea factory to hire its own company secretary will add unnecessary costs to farmers.
"The other requirement limiting tea brokers to handle a maximum of 15 tea factories will kill competition among the brokers. Right now, the brokers are working hard to outdo each other in terms of getting better prices for the farmers. Limiting them to only act on behalf of 15 factories, will force some factories to go to brokers who they might have not preferred in the first place," said Mutai.
He also poked holes on the requirement of all the tea to be sold at the Mombasa tea auction.
"We should instead encourage the direct sales which KTDA is currently working on to expand the market. Direct sales are what attract buyers who don't want to go to the auction," said Mutai.
Rono, the Litein Tea factory director, said KTDA was privatized through Paper-II of 1999 where the name changed from Kenya Tea Development Authority to Kenya Tea Development Agency.
"The spirit of the change was in recognition of the fact that all along with the government only guaranteed loans to the factories. The factories repaid the loans without any funding from the government."
Governor Paul Chepkwony accused the Agriculture CS of failing to conduct public participation as required by law before the implementation.
"We demand that the government halts the implementation of the reforms until all the controversial clauses in the tea reforms are deleted," he said
Senator Aaron Cheruiyot said that the farmers had raised serious and credible issues against the reforms which must be listened to.
"They have declared that under no circumstances Kenya Tea Development Agency should be revered back into a government agency. The half-backed tea Regulations should not be pushed down the throats of the tea farmers," he said
Belgut Member of Parliament Nelson Koech said KTDA must remain in the hands of the tea farmers.
"Agriculture CS must listen to the tea farmers. He should recall the Tea Regulations. One of the things that must be addressed is the disparity in the bonus payment between farmers in KTDA's West and East of Rift," he said.
George Murungara, the Tharaka MP who chaired the delegated Committee hearing assured the farmers that the National Assembly will ensure that the controversial clauses in the tea bill are looked into.
" The interest of the farmers is paramount. The interest of everyone else including the government and KTDA is secondary. We will inform the government including the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya in no uncertain terms what Kericho farmers have said that they will not want anyone to kill the goose which lays the golden goose," he said.
Bomet East Member of Parliament Ronald Tonui who is a member of the delegated Committee sided with the tea farmers.
"Since Munya was appointed to the Agriculture docket he has not found any new market for Kenyan tea," he said.
Tonui petitioned the Agriculture CS to look for means to provide subsidised fertiliser.
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