MPs demand far-reaching changes in the tea and coffee sectors to stop farmers from uprooting the crops

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Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria. PHOTO/COURTESY

By WILSON KAMAU

Members of Parliament from tea and coffee growing zones have called for far-reaching reforms in the sectors to guarantee farmers better returns.

The Mps led by among others Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoyo want among other things the restructuring and reforming of the Kenya Tea Development Agency, value addition in tea processing, removal of 16 percent on tea sold by local factories, disbanding of all taskforces handling tea and coffee issues and removal of guaranteed minimum returns legal provision.

“It is only the tea and coffee farmers who go to plough their farms but they don’t know how much they will sell their produce. This kind of slavery that comes through extractive institutions like KTDA and Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (KPCU) the way it was must come to an end,” he said.

The Kiharu MP said there has been a worrying trend in the decline of earnings for tea and coffee farmers and the worst was experienced during the recent payment of tea bonus.

“Tea farmers are now engaged in loss making business as the bonus paid this year declined by a huge margin,” he said.

The MP demanded for new regulations to govern the tea sector saying the current ones favour cartels in the sector.

“We want regulations; we have passed all the laws that our farmers need in the management of commodities. We are asking the Ministry of Trade to remove this “Guaranteed Minimum Returns” being used to exploit farmers,’ he said.

Mr Nyoro said reforms are urgently required at KTDA to result in farmers being well represented through one-man-one-vote system as the current voting system favours large scale farmers as voting is based on kilogrammes of tea delivered by farmers.

Mr Kuria called for value addition in tea processing saying 88 percent of Kenyan tea was exported in bulk while a country like Sri Lanka was paying its farmers well because it exports 60 percent of processed tea.

“We want to see the Government put money into value addition in the tea sector and not just stories,” he said.

Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro. PHOTO/FACEBOOK

Mr Kuria who appealed to tea farmers not to uproot their crop due to frustrations and said concessions being offered to investors in Special Economic zones (SEZ) should also be extended to coffee and tea factories for value addition.

“As a House we have also noted that if you buy tea from a local factory you are charged 16 percent VAT but if you buy tea from the auction you are going to do so VAT free. We are going to come together as MPs and remove this 16 percent on local tea purchases so as we can encourage value addition and also extend other benefits enjoyed by Special Economic Zones (SEZ) to apply to tea,” he said.

Meanwhile, KTDA managing director, Mr Lerionka Tiampati, has said it is the choice of framers to uproot their tea bushes or not. 

Mr Tiampati said that farmers could turn to alternative crops if tea was not profitable to them.

“We have no say over what farmers want to do with their tea bushes. They are overall owners of the plants,” he said.

He made the remarks after a rise in social and mainstream media reports that farmers across the country were uprooting tea bushes.

He spoke during a media briefing on the 2018-19 financial year bonus payment to small-scale tea farmers in the country.

Kenya is the leading exporter of black CTC teas in the world accounting for about 23 per cent of the global exports with KTDA accounting for about 13 per cent.

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