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Farmers’ relief as KTDA boosts monthly yields

A tea farmer affiliated to Gathuthi Tea Factory after delivering his produce at Ndugamano Tea Buying Collection Centre. Farmers' earnings are set to increase following the review of their monthly payments. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Tea farmers affiliated to Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA) in the Mt Kenya region will get a payout of Sh21 per kilogramme of green leaf up from Sh16 that has been paid in the last three years.

Already factories in the east of Rift Valley have informed their growers of the new amount following the government directive that they get 50 per cent of their earnings on a monthly basis.

In the notices, the growers, estimated at over half the 600,000 smallholders, are advised that any increase in farm-level costs, including plucking labour, was not justified and would further erode their earnings.

Interim payment

Meru regional KTDA Director Paul Ringera said all factories east of the Rift Valley had settled on Sh21 per kilogramme to improve farmers’ regular earnings, but had decided to terminate the interim payment (mini bonus) usually paid at the end of April at Sh5 per kilogramme.

The mini bonus payments usually covered the cumulative half-year produce between July and December of the preceding year.

“The factories west of the Rift Valley have elected to pay a monthly rate of Sh18 on the other hand,” said Ringera, who added that the factories were keen to ensure long-term stability of the sector amidst contentious government driven reforms.

In Murang’a County, the tea processing factories have issued notice to their growers that they will be paying green leaf at Sh21 per kilogramme with effect from January.

Majority of the KTDA directors confirmed that the new payment was passed during board meetings that approved the Sh21 payment per kilogramme of the green leaf, but requested anonymity following pending suits challenging the implementation of regulations passed by the Parliament and Senate.

They warned that the annual bonus will be affected by the increment in the monthly prices, as the prices at the auction markets have reduced.

The notices seen by The Standard are from Makomboki, Njunu and Kiru Tea factories in Murang’a County, and are pinned at their leaf collection centres.

Last month, the factory’s board of directors reviewed the monthly green leaf payment from Sh16 to Sh21 with effect from January 2021, read part of the notice at a buying centre affiliated to Kiru Tea Factory in Mathioya.

In 2019, the agency following the demand by the farmers increased payment for green leaf from Sh15 to Sh16, a move that led to public outcry after which former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri summoned the KTDA board to his office over the same.

Kiru Tea Factory had three years ago written to KTDA expressing its willingness to pay its growers Sh25 per kilogramme of green leaf.

KTDA directors describe the move as intended to match payments with the cost of living, while some farmers argued that this was a move to adhere to the tea regulation passed by Parliament that requires that they get 50 per cent of the payment.

However, a farmer from Kigumo Sub-county, James Mwaura, expected to get not less than Sh30 per kilogramme.

“Let the managing agent not deceive the farmers with little increment in payment, but should adhere with the reforms passed by Parliament and Senate,” said Mwaura.

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