CASH CROP

Quality leaves equal better pay, Kisii tea farmers told

Farmers urged not to be discouraged by this year's low bonus earnings.

In Summary
  • They have been advised not to sell fertiliser meant for their tea bushes
  • Good quality of green tea will only be achieved if the fertiliser supplied to all farmers is applied properly, says chairman 
Ogembo-Eberege tea factories board of directors chairman Ombasa Omweno during a meeting with tea farmers on Nove,ner 26, 2021
Ogembo-Eberege tea factories board of directors chairman Ombasa Omweno during a meeting with tea farmers on Nove,ner 26, 2021
Image: ALVIN RATEMO

Tea farmers in Kisii have been urged to improve the quality of their produce to receive more earnings.

They have also been advised not to sell fertiliser meant for their tea bushes.

Ogembo and Eberege factories board chairman Ombasa Omweno asked farmers not to be discouraged by this year's low bonus earnings.

“I know farmers were not happy with what they earned as a bonus. I am urging you to continue taking good care of your tea bushes because the price will not be the same next year,” he said.

“Good quality of green tea will only be achieved if the fertiliser supplied to all farmers is applied properly.” 

He spoke at Ogembo tea factory on Friday during the annual general meeting for the year ended June 30.  

Omweno said factories recorded low sales as a result of poor prices in the international market.

Other factors included delay of fertiliser from Romania, dry weather and lack of market.

Kenya Tea Development Agency Management Services Limited (KTDA-MS) released Sh21.57 billion bonus in October. 

The bonus payments were a disappointment to many farmers.

Farmer Gideon Onywoki supported the reforms in the tea sector, saying factories now send messages to farmers' phones indicating the weight of their tea leaves. He said this has helped deter the theft of their leaves.

Onywoki said they hope to earn higher bonuses as the factories have already increased their monthly earnings from Sh17 per kilo to Sh20.

Omweno praised farmers affiliated to zone 11 factories, which include Ogembo, Nyamache, Eberere, Kiamokama, Rianyamwamu and Itumbe, for their patience.

He said the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the supply chain in the global market. 

Omweno said the factories are evaluating the difficulties encountered and will develop a business continuity plan. 

“I want to assure you that we will continue to seek and pursue strategies that will guarantee that the business remains profitable to the shareholders as outlined in our strategic plan,” he said.

Some of the challenges the industry faces include legal and regulatory, high cost of energy, high interest rates, labour disputes, lack of inputs and climate change.

The board, Omweno said, had recommended that farmers use machines to pick tea to reduce harvest costs, replace ageing tea bushes, access extension services, apply fertiliser on time and pick the right leaves.  

Omweno said board members had trained committees at the tea buying centres to stop the theft of tea leaves by unscrupulous tea buying clerks.

“The board assures farmers that they will not be exploited by the clerks. The committee members are vigilant and will not allow it,” he said.

Edited by Josephine M. Mayuya