BETTER PAY

Brand our tea to improve pay, say Kiru factory farmers

Farmers also appealed to the management to seal loopholes in which farmers' cash is lost.

In Summary

• Farmers want their tea to go directly to the consumer without having to be auctioned to other processors.

•  They say branding their tea will enable the factory to get better markets and improve their payments.

One of Kiru tea factory's chairmen Stephen Githiga during an annual general meeting on Friday.
One of Kiru tea factory's chairmen Stephen Githiga during an annual general meeting on Friday.
Image: Alice Waithera

Farmers from Kiru Tea Factory have asked its management to start processing and branding its own tea to increase their returns.

The farmers say that is the only way the factory will shield its farmers from deteriorating tea markets that have been on a steady price decline.

The farmers who spoke during their annual general meeting said they want their tea to go direct to consumers without having to go through other processors.

 

Currently, most tea factories sell their tea in bulk at the Mombasa Auction to buyers who then brand it as their own.

The farmers said the move will increase their returns and provide jobs to local youths.

“As our board, we need you to work out a strategy that will ensure most of the tea we produce does not go through the Mombasa Auction where tea prices are mostly never favourable,” Francis Kamau, a farmer, told the factory’s management.

The farmers further noted that fully processing and branding its coffee would enable the factory source for better markets.

Farmers also appealed to the management to seal loopholes in which farmers' cash is lost.

They also lauded the factory for establishing a Sh100 million Orthodox tea processing plant that will process 10 per cent of the overall tea sold by the factory.

One of the two warring chairmen of the factory Stephen Githiga who chaired the meeting said a variety of measures have been employed to improve farmers’ payments, including product diversification.

 

“The factory is the only one in Murang’a county to establish an orthodox tea processing plant that will enable us to sell tea to new markets away from the traditional Arab countries that buy black tea,” Githiga said.

Githiga pointed out that the specialized tea that includes green, purple tea has acquired a market in Russia, Iran and Iraq and that the factory is making efforts to penetrate the European market.

Githiga further noted that KTDA, the factory’s managing agent, is trying to diversify the available markets for black tea to cushion farmers from poor payments such as the one experienced in this year’s annual bonus.

“As a board, we are also working together to reduce expenditure in the factory with the decline of the tea prices,” he added.

He, however, asked farmers to improve the quality of green leaf they pick from their farms to make their tea competitive, especially with the increased global production.

He also noted that the Sh2.2 billion Metumi hydropower projects established by the factory in partnership with Kiru, Githambo, Gatunguru and Kanyenyaini tea factories will help reduce the cost of production.

“We are using power worth Sh10 to process a kilogram of tea but this will significantly reduce once we clear the debts we accrued to implement the project,” Githiga noted.

The factory has, however, had wrangles since 2017, when the board led by chairman Chege Kirundi suspended Githiga, who was then a director after his appointment as Sasini CEO. They said there was a conflict of interest.

The board also sacked KTDA company secretary John Kennedy Omanga from the factory and replaced him with Bernard Kiragu, after he wrote a letter noting the board had not followed the right procedure when suspending Githiga.