SET UP KITTY

Bill to cushion tea farmers from unsteady prices 'in plans'

MP also wants state to set up a Tea ministry, to enable minister to focus on sector

In Summary

• He says bill will guarantee minimum returns are set at a level below which tea prices will not fall. 

• He proposes that the government gets an average of the money farmers have been paid per kilogram for the last 10 years and use it as the minimum price.  

Kangema MP Muturi Kigano at a past church function
DISGRUNTLED GROWERS: Kangema MP Muturi Kigano at a past church function
Image: ALICE WAITHERA

Kangema MP Muturi Kigano has proposed a law that will compel the government to establish a kitty to cushion tea farmers from fluctuating prices.

Kigano said it is meant to guarantee minimum returns are set at a level below which tea prices will not fall. He said this will help farmers to better manage their payments and improve the quality of their lives.

Kigano said many farmers have been left in huge debts following the reduced annual bonus payments, while others have rushed back to banks to take more loans after their payments were swallowed up by their previous loans.

“Setting guaranteed minimum returns will stop such incidences that turn farmers into banks’ slaves,” he said in Kangema on Monday. 

He has been advising farmers against uprooting their tea bushes but noted that the only way to encourage them is to put measures in place that will cushion them from fluctuating prices. He proposed that the government should get an average of the money farmers have been paid per kilogramme for the past 10 years and use it as the minimum price. 

“The government should set the price as the payment threshold and subsidise the sector as it is done in other countries."   

Kigano reiterated that the government will not have to pay farmers all the money paid above the set price and that it can be added to the kitty to compensate farmers when prices drop. 

“That way, farmers will be insured against meagre earnings that make it hard for them to support themselves,” he said. 

Tea, the lawmaker said, forms part of the financial backbone of the country. He said the government should also consider establishing a tea ministry. He pointed out that countries that rely on oil have oil ministries, adding that a tea minister would better concentrate on the sector without being distracted by other sectors.

The sector contributes about four per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, with farmers receiving an average of Sh41.27 per kilogram as compared to last year’s Sh52.83 per kilogram. 

The payments issued by the Kenya Tea Development Agency reduced by 25.5 per cent from Sh62.35 billion last year to Sh46.45 billion this year.  The decline caused an uproar among farmers who have accused the agency of mismanagement.

Murang’a county government has filed a petition seeking to have an audit conducted on the agency. Murang’a farmers have received the highest payment countrywide after getting Sh8.6 billion, a reduction of Sh2.7 billion from last year. Bomet county follows with Sh6.1 billion.

Edited by R.Wamochie