South Rift farmers to set up tea auction in protest
By Nikko Tanui
| September 5th 2016
Smallholder tea growers from South Rift region have resolved to stop selling their produce through the Mombasa Tea Auction.
The farmers instead said they would market their tea directly to protest Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) low bonus payments for western region farmers.
The angry farmers led by Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony and his Bomet counterpart Isaac Ruto announced in what they termed "Sosiot tea farmers declaration" that they would set up the country's second tea auction in Kericho.
South Rift counties have 100,100 registered tea farmers and run 12 factories. Four other factories are under construction.
The small-scale tea growers, who have a combined 56,000 hectares under tea, earned Sh9.15 billion in the last financial year.
"The smallholder farmers cannot continue being slaves forever. They have suffered enough and the time has now come for farmers in the western region to break away from the traditional Mombasa Tea Auction and set up their own," said Prof Chepkwony.
The governor said during the farmers meeting at Sosiot Trading Centre in Belgut Constituency that the direct tea sale concept has been tried successfully by the management of Kokchaik Sacco, which through Finlay's tea company, earn $3 (Sh303) per kilogramme of tea.
"There is no reason at all why Kenya Tea Development Agency should pay farmers Sh16 per kilogramme of tea as bonus," said Chepkwony.
He said that his administration would identify land for construction of the auction. The auction, which he said will be constructed to international standards, will enable farmers to sell their produce to Europe and other overseas markets.
Mr Ruto pointed out that smallholder tea farmers and multinational tea companies in South Rift account for 68.2 per cent of the country's tea production and it would be good for region to host a major tea auction.
"The Tea Research Foundation and some of the most experienced tea managers are in Kericho. We owe the farmers a responsibility to manage the sector and to create the necessary legislative framework to assist in the management of the tea sector," he said.
The farmers mandated Chepkwony and Ruto's administrations to create and inaugurate an overall tea corporate body to manage all the affairs of the smallholder tea farmers.
"Prior to the inauguration of the new body, the Kenya Tea Development Agency management fee must be reviewed down and must not exceed Sh15 million per annum per factory under its management," read the farmers' statement
It further stated that the first rate payment for green leaf for the smallholder tea growers should be increased from Sh14 to Sh20 per kilogramme from July 1, 2016.
The farmers also demanded the reduction of tea factory directors from the current seven to three.
"The Kenya Tea Development Authority must also fulfil the legal requirement by appointing the board of directors for Toror, Chelal,Kobel, Boito, Tirgaga, Motigo,Roror.
These factories now process huge volumes of tea and must have their own board of directors," the statement further read.
The farmers added that though the national government had removed the ad valorem tax, it should move further and strike out other taxes which have become a burden to the tea growers.
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