Small-scale tea farmers in the Rift Valley want Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) directors removed over alleged mismanagement that led to a low bonus payment this season.
The farmers want elections held to vote out incompetent directors and accuse the current management of failure to introduce aggressive marketing strategies for tea products to earn attractive prices that would translate to high bonuses.
“KTDA requires an urgent overhaul to cushion farmers against being pushed out of the sector due to the high cost of production coupled with low returns.
“Competent managers who can market our tea in the competitive global market should take over,” said Mathew Lang’at, of Ndurio, Kaptumo zone, in Nandi County.
The farmers decried the high deductions from tea earnings to sustain KTDA operations at the expense of farmers.
The more than 30,000 tea growers from various tea factories demanded an investigation into alleged financial misconduct.
“Such low bonus amounts to exploitation of farmers, who face numerous challenges ranging from servicing loans to maintaining tea bushes,” said the farmers from Nandi County led by David Too and Joseph Lagat.
Most tea factories in the county paid Sh14 a kilo this season compared with Sh26 last year.
KTDA managers linked the fall in bonus pay to a drop in global prices by about Sh22 a kilo due to surplus production.
Tea farmers in Vihiga County will receive Sh14 per kilo as bonus while their counterparts at Kapsara tea factory in Trans Nzoia County will be paid Sh11 per kilo.
They complained that the money was too low, with some threatening to uproot the cash crop and invest in other ventures.
Their counterparts in Kisii were paid Sh11 per kilo, the lowest in many seasons.
“The farmers expected to earn above Sh50 per kilo after global prices stabilised to cushion them from high production costs,” said Mr James Too, from Kapsara in Trans Nzoia.
The farmers’ sentiments were supported by local leaders.
“Why should farmers continue electing directors who fail to articulate their issues especially when it comes to payment of bonuses?” asked Nandi Governor Stephen Sang in a past interview.
Last year, KTDA attributed higher bonuses to improved quality of green tea and aggressive marketing.
The authority, which buys tea from about 560,000 small-scale farmers, paid Sh63 billion in bonuses last year, down from Sh52.6 billion the previous year.
Several multinational firms in western Kenya did away with second payments due to falling tea prices in the international market.
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