Tea processors should stop withholding farmers’ dues to help mitigate poverty
By Francis Wanyanga
| May 14th 2017
Tea is the country’s leading export and foreign exchange. Consequently, the importance of tea cultivation need not be gain said. The crop is cultivated by hundreds of thousands of small scale holders with plots averaging between one to two acres on one hand and large scale multi-nationals operating mainly in Kericho and Nandi counties and in Limuru.
While the multi-nationals are able to cultivate, process and market their tea as individual entities, small-scale farmers are organised into regional public processing companies, about 60 or so which are collectively managed by the Kenya Tea Development Agency on a contractual bilateral basis.
Tea farming would only be of consequence if it changed the farmers economically. Today many in this group are completely swamped by microfinance debts to the extent that they literally work for banks, and no one seems to be drawing up for them a road map out of this situation.
On the sales front, 90 per cent of tea from the small scale sector is sold through the Mombasa International Tea Auction, with the proceeds being remitted to the source processing company. The remainder is sold to Ketepa and some direct buyers almost for cash, and generally all stock is sold in a typical year.
Processors should drop this obsession with ‘bonus’ and pay suppliers promptly to stem rural poverty, else respective county governments should take the cue and legislate this requirement to save their constituents from economic ruin.
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