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Proposed tea sector regulations flawed - lawyers

The regulations increase bureaucracy, KTDA lawyer says.

In Summary

•Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) lawyer Benson Millimo has said the regulations will significantly reduce tea farmers earnings.

•A section of tea farmers from the Rift Valley and Central Kenya have also come out to oppose the regulations asking for more consultations, involving them.

A tea farm in Kericho,Photo/FILE
A tea farm in Kericho,Photo/FILE

The proposed Crops (Tea Industry) Regulations 2020 that were recently unveiled by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya will strangle smallholder tea farmers if adopted, a legal expert has said.

Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) lawyer, Benson Millimo, has said the regulations will significantly reduce tea farmers' earnings; thereby achieving the opposite result of what their intended objective was. 

Millimo said the proposed regulations go against the principle of the Crops Act of 2013. 

 

"What these tea regulations would actually do is increase bureaucracy seeing that what the Cabinet Secretary has done is to bring in more regulations and conditions on matters of tea farming,” he added. 

He said the regulations infringe on the constitutional right to own property and challenged the government to follow the right procedure should it have interest in owning the property held by tea farmers under the ambit of KTDA. 

Millimo noted that  KTDA is a private company owned by tea farmers and not a parastatal.

To this extent, he said,  if the government is interested in taking over KTDA, then it can do so by buying-off KTDA through negotiating with the farmers.

 

He said smallholder tea farmers risk losing direct control of the management of the tea chain if the proposed regulations are passed saying the same fate met coffee and sugarcane farmers. 

“Tea has been the top foreign exchange earner in Kenya. One of the things that have made the tea small-scale industry to continue growing is that the entire process of owning the small-scale tea farms, processing, manufacturing and selling the tea is done by the farmers," said Millimo.

This is through their elected representatives in the name of directors.

"If you tell the tea farmer they cannot trade with their companies, and that the directors who have been elected cannot sit in these companies, then you are simply telling the tea farmer, offload your shares," he added. 

CS Munya unveiled the Crops (Tea Industry) Regulations 2020 late last month as a follow-up to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s pronouncements at the start of the year, for the desire to increase the smallholder tea farmer earnings through various initiatives.

Various stakeholders, including the East African Tea Trade Association, the Kenya Tea Development Authority have already shared detailed responses to the regulations outlining the need for further consultations on the same. 

A section of tea farmers from the Rift Valley and Central Kenya have also come out to oppose the regulations asking for more consultations, involving them.