Tea farmers feel the pinch as tea prices drop

Farmers appealed to the national government to intervene for the tea sector to iron out problems ailing the sector.

A sharp drop of tea prices in the global market has adversely affected the local farmers in Nandi.

Since the beginning of this year, the local factories, including those under the Nyayo Tea Development Zone and the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) have seen a drop from Sh30 to the least Sh17 per kilo.

According to the local farmers, they are forced to sell their produce to the local factories at the low prices to avert losses.

Tea Farmers Association chairman Simon Mutai claimed the drastic fall in the prices of the tea was linked to the poor management of the sector in the county, adding that the concerned agencies have turned to brokers to exploit the farmers.

“Initially there were no great variations of the prices from the factories. When the pandemic hit the country, suddenly the tea leaves buyers took the advantage to exploit the farmers by blatantly reducing the prices by Sh10,” he said.

According to Elijah Maiyo the local small scale farmers have been selling tea to one of the Nyayo Tea Development processor and have not been receiving fair pay, claiming that the maintenance of the farm is costly.

“When they buy tea at Sh19, remember I need to pay tea pickers Sh10 per kilo and the rest will go to the fertiliser,” lamented Maiyo, a resident of Chesumei subcounty.

Noting that the tea bonus nosedived to 30 per cent, the farmers have been supplying tea to the KTDA-owned factories in the region. They said the Sh10 bonus per kilo has reduced to Sh4, meaning the farmers will earn a low bonus this year.

“We have children at home and we have to buy food and other basic needs to sustain them. From the recent indications of the flattening of the Covid-19 curve, schools will resume and school fees will be needed,” added Simon Kiptoo, a farmer in Nandi Hills subcounty.

Farmers appealed to the national government to intervene and have the tea sector iron out problems ailing it, urging that the relevant authorities be allowed to get rid of the rogue traders meddling with the market.

“As farmers we have been taken for granted for a long time and the KTDA discrepancies over the tea market have forced the factories to buy crops at poor prices. With the proposals given in the reforms, the marketing and management of the tea sector will efficiently look into the interest of the farmers,” said John Sirma, a farmer in Aldai subcounty.

He said the setback bedeviling the tea sector has rendered the plant unprofitable thus leaving them under the mercies of the private factories.

Nyato Tea Develpoment Zones regional manager Peter Korir said the entire country has been adversely affected by the challenges in the tea sector thus the market dynamics have not resonated with the farmers' needs.

“It has been chaotic for farmers to come to terms with the prices. This is why we have experienced agitation for tea leaves price increment. Ninety percent of our tea is sold in the international market and since the Coronavirus hit, we experienced the reduction and low demand of the tea globally,” he said, projecting that in the next two months they expect the global market to resume normalcy.

His KTDA counterpart Joseph Mwendwa said going by the current state of the Covid-19 reduction in the Kenyan tea markets like Denmark, Europe and Asian countries, there will be significant tea exports when the markets are open.

“We shall see remarkable differences before the end of this year and the sector will come to its feet."

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