- They say management issues have contributed to poor prices paid by the agency
- The sector did well when KTDA was a public institution, they say
Farmers in Murang’a county want the Kenya Tea Development Agency de-privatised to address the ailing sector.
Farmers from Nduti Tea Factory in Kandara said the agency is a private firm that focuses more on making profits than their welfare.
They said management issues have contributed to poor prices paid by the agency for many years.
The farmers protested against the Sh34.20 bonus their factory is paying them per kilo.
They said the sector did better when KTDA was publicly run as the crop fetched more money and fewer squabbles rocked factories.
Mary Wanjiru said the fate of the tea industry is sealed if drastic changes are not effected to ensure better management.
“The future of this crop that we have depended on for ages is doomed if it continues the way it has for several years now,” Wanjiru said.
She said farmers are fed up with the agency as all it does is suppress them while officials continue to swim in riches.
She said directors of tea factories organise meetings in luxurious hotels and award themselves hefty allowances while farmers languish in poverty.
“We want to see change in the industry so that we are able to take better care of our families and live longer. We cannot keep begging as we break our backs in our farms,” she said. Many farmers are unable to educate their children due to financial constraints.
“The government took better care of farmers when it was in charge. We want KTDA de-privatized into an authority.”
Rachel Wambui called for a forensic audit of the agency to establish what ails the sector.
“The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has the capacity to audit the agency and the factories to establish exactly what causes the poor payments,” Wambui said.
She said the current leadership keeps pushing farmers down and requires a total overhaul.
Top managers of the agency should be vetted to establish whether they are qualified and why they are unable to secure better markets for tea.
“For now, we want the agency sidestepped and the government to have a bigger stake in the sector to get a better market ,” she said.
Once the tea is sold, she said, the government should then ensure the money is prudently handled at factory level to avoid misappropriation.
At the same time, Governor Mwangi wa Iria has vowed to go to court to challenge the poor prices proposed by KTDA and demand an explanation.
Wa Iria said farmers have been enslaved by the sector and wondered why the prices keep going down.
“We don’t see the prices of tea leaves falling in shops. We should know that farmers are employed by their farms but they keep getting unfavorable payments,” the governor said.