•The MPs said the said the treatment accorded to maize farmers should be extended to tea farmers.
•They said the Mombasa auction should be closed down and tea bought directly from farmers to remove middlemen.
MPs from tea growing areas want the government to protect farmers from low prices.
Speaking at Kagundu-ini shopping centre on Friday during a Inua Mama event, the MPs said the government has taken steps to support farmers in other sectors and the same should be done in the tea sector.
Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro asked the government to establish a kitty that will pay tea farmers an extra Sh15 for every kilogramme.
This, Ndindi said, will cushion farmers from the debts they are bound to incur following the decreased annual bonus prices.
“These farmers took loans and then KTDA announced prices that are too low to pay the debts,” he said, noting that there is a huge risk that many farmers will be plunged into deep debts.
He gave the example of Githambo Tea Tactory which paid its annual bonuses at Sh 40 per kilogramme last year but the prices fell to Sh27 this year.
Ndindi said the government intervenes when maize prices fall and supports farmers and the same treatment should be extended to tea farmers.
“Tea and coffee farmers have to be better considered by the government. I was educated using coffee proceeds but the sector has now collapsed and cannot support farmers. The same cannot be allowed to happen to tea,” he said.
Kericho Woman Representative Florence Bore said farmers have become enslaved by the extremely low prices paid by KTDA.
The MP said KTDA deducts a huge amount of farmers’ money before paying them and that the payment is then subdivided between tea pickers and farm inputs.
A huge amount of money, she said, is directed towards KTDA’s subsidiary companies that do not benefit farmers in anyway.
“Companies such as Chai Trading do not add any value to farmers and should be done away with,” the MP said.
She said if things do not change to better the sector, leaders from tea zones will come together and impeach trade Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya for failing to protect farmers.
Bore noted that the low prices being experienced are caused by poor markets and wondered why tea has to be auctioned in Mombasa.
The auction, she said, should be done from the factories so that buyers can buy directly from farmers and eliminate middlemen who crowd the auction and take a big chunk of farmers’ money.
Kandara MP Alice Wahome also blamed the low prices on cartels operating at the Mombasa auction.
Once the cartels are eliminated, tea farmers will be able to enjoy good tea prices once more, she said.
“We will fight them until they are gone from the tea sector. Tea prices have to go back up. As leaders we will work together on that and ensure farmers get the support they require,” Wahome said.