Tea farmers push for high bonuses, more directors

A tea farmer on a farm. Farmers from 12 tea factories in Gusii have asked the government to effect changes for the benefit of smallholder growers who drive the sector.

[Kibata Kihu/Standard]

Low bonuses and reduction of factory directors are some of the issues tea farmers are pushing in the ongoing debate on tea reforms. 

Farmers from 12 tea factories in Gusii have asked the government to effect these changes for the benefit of smallholder growers who drive the sector.

In Gusii land, Nyansiongo factory paid the highest bonus of Sh14 to farmers, with Nyankoba following closely with Sh13, while Sang’anyi will be paying Sh12.

All the other remaining factories will pay farmers a low of Sh9 per kilo.

From Friday, farmers from across all counties where tea is grown have been presenting their views on proposed reforms in the tea industry to the Parliamentary Delegated Legislation Committee.

In Gusii region comprising Kisii and Nyamira counties, the exercise was conducted in Sang’anyi, Kebirigo and Tombe Tea factories.

Farmers who expressed anger over the manner in which the industry was being run, urged Parliament to move fast in enacting new laws to save the industry.

Other changes they proposed is an audit of the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) pool account.

“The directors are doing nothing to save us in our tribulations as growers,” Daniel Gecheo, Gianchore Growers’ representative, told the committee.

They also recommended the dissolution of all the subsidiary companies of the agency which they said were contributing to the low bonus payouts.

“We are burdened by many companies run by KTDA which only eat into our sweat and yet they are not adding any value to us. They are making us even poorer,” Kennedy Kaburi, a farmers’ representative said.

In Murang’a, some farmers have differed with Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya’s call to reduce directors from six to three. They also want future directors’ elections handled by a competent agency since KTDA was an interested party.

At Kiru Tea Factory, a farmer Joseph Mbiri, said in the proposed regulation clause, the age limit for the directors should be fixed at 70.

Kiru Tea Factory farmers told the MPs the number of the directors should be factored according to the size of the tea factories.

At Nduti Tea Factory in Kandara, the growers only allowed Gacharage Factory chairman Paul Kagema to address the committee, saying others were against the regulations.  

The road to reform in the tea sector started two years ago after the management of Kiru Tea Factory led by lawyer Chege Kirundi demanded a forensic audit in the operations of KTDA before they sign a fresh management contract.

The parliamentary team met with farmers in Kirinyaga, Nyeri and Meru counties, and will be in Kiambu tomorrow.

CS Munya last week visited the tea growing regions in the company of other ministry officials, sensitising the farmers on the regulations.

Imenti South MP Kathuri Murungi said the legislators will have their first meeting at Kinoro factory at 9am.

“Tea farmers affiliated to the Kionyo and Imenti factories will have a combined meeting with the committee at Kigarene Primary School at 11am. At 1pm, the MPs will have another meeting with farmers at Gitongo factory. They will be seeking farmers' input on the reforms,” said Murungi. He said it was important to get the views from farmers who are the chief stakeholders before the legislators make a decision.

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