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Governors reject new tea regulations

Jane Wanja plucks tea leaves on a farm at Rwathia Village in Kangema, Murang'a. Tea farming is the main economic activity at Rwathia. [Kibata Kihu/Standard] 

Governors have rejected the new tea regulations recently released for implementation, saying they do not respect the functions and integrity of the county government.

The Council of Governors, through a press statement, have also called for a review, suggesting various amendments which they recommend to be made on the laws.

“The CoG notes that the regulations do not respect the institutional and functions of the county governments given the fact that agriculture and trade development and regulation are primarily functions of the county governments,” reads a part of the statement by the CoG.

In the statement, the governors requested for county governments to be authorised to issue licenses for appointment of county tea inspectors, manufacturing, registrations and licensing of warehouse premises, or their renewal and registration.

“Pursuant to the Fourth Schedule to the constitution, agriculture and trade development and regulation has been devolved to county governments. This therefore means that all agricultural activities happening with the respective county government jurisdiction is regulated by that county. Registration of plantation tea growers should be regulated by the county governments,”  the statement says.

One of the laws that provided that a factory may delete the name of a grower from the register if it has reason to believe that the person has ceased being a grower has also come into question.

The governors recommended that a duration be provided for which the factory shall comply with before removal of a name.

Governors also sought for a relook at Regulation 39, which states that a county government shall not impose any fees on tea, saying it is a repetition of what has already been provided for in the constitution.

“The centrality of devolution in the agriculture sector is something that cannot be wished away in the development of the tea industry and as such it should be emphasized in the Tea Regulations, 2020,” reads a part of the statement.

The Council of Governors further urged the government to fast-track the process of reviewing the Crops Act, 2012 and the Agriculture and Food Authority Act to align them to the constitution.

“We call upon the ministry to immediately commence the process of reviewing the two pieces of legislations to the constitution. By doing so, the regulation and development of all the scheduled crops for the benefit of all farmers will be efficiently undertaken by the two levels of government,” reads part of the document.

The new tea regulations were unveiled by Agriculture CS Peter Munya in May and declared ready for implementation in early August. These policies were aimed at creating a more favourable market for farmers, with a transparent and accountable value chain.

The implementation of the regulations came after President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the Agriculture ministry to address farmers' trade conditions by relieving the Kenya Tea Development Agency of some of its roles, addressing graft and exploitation of farmers and eliminating conflict of interest within the tea value chain.

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