SIMPLE: SCANT PROFIT

What's killing the tea sector?

Many factors, mostly fixable, leading to crisis in tea sector

In Summary
  • Greedy cartels, lack of research in modern farming and poor marketing strategies partly to blame for low returns.
  • KTDA blames increased production of tea globally, economic problems in important markets and high cost of local production. importing markets 
Kimani Karanuuprootstea bushes to plant miraa in Murang'a county.
UPROOTING TEA: Kimani Karanuuprootstea bushes to plant miraa in Murang'a county.
Image: FILE:
Kimani Karanu in his miraa farm which he planted after uprooting tea bushes in Kahuro, Murang'a county.
WORTHLESS TEA? Kimani Karanu in his miraa farm which he planted after uprooting tea bushes in Kahuro, Murang'a county.
Image: FILE:
Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina.
AILING TEA SECTOR: Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina.
Image: FILE

Greedy cartels, lack of constant research on modern farming methods and poor marketing strategies partyly to blame for low returns and the crisis in the tea sector.

Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina, also cites failure by the state to invest heavily in the agriculture sector, lack of government subsidies to farmers, problems in traditional export markets.

Tea from other regions floods the market, Kenyan farmers fail to produce enough purple orthodox tea.

On Thursday, the Kenya Tea Development Authority announced that tea farmers will take home an average Sh41.27 per kilogramme of green leaf for the 2018-29 bonus payment.

KTDA blamed increased production of tea globally, importing markets experiencing political and economic challenges and high cost of production locally.

But the low returns have angered farmers with those from Murang’a and Nyeri demanding restricting of KTDA. The farmers have also threatened to start uprooting the crop. Some already have. 

The tea volcano has erupted with the meager bonus being paid.  It is an insult to the farmers.
Senator Ephraim Maina

Speaking in his Nairobi office on Thursday, Maina,  who has prepared a bill to restructure the sector, called KTDA's claim of overproduction "a joke".

He said if that were true, other tea exporting counties would also be complaining.

Maina called Kena's tea sector “a volcano that was waiting to erupt", saying KTDA is focused on its profits not the welfare of farmers.

The senator criticised the lack of subsidies, lack of lower taxation on agricultural inputs and the high costs of commercial funding of the agriculture sector, in general. Farmers are pushed into poverty, he said.

“The tea volcano has erupted with the meager bonus being paid.  It is an insult to the farmers," he said.

He urged the government to swiftly investigate and apprehend those have mismanaged the tea sector.

“The government should ensure all the cartels are unmasked and dealt with," the senator said.

Maina accused cartels of working behind the scenes to overprice insurance. He also blamed costly and unnecessary transport of tea to auction houses, which should instead be built next to factories.

He also questioned why KTDA was engaging in ventures such as power production which he said was eating into the cash that should have benefited the farmer.

(Edited by V. Graham)