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September 25, 2018

Farmers challenge ban on sale of tea to private processors

Farmers prepare tea for sale at Mutunguru buying centre in Kangema on Monday /ALICE WAITHERA
Farmers prepare tea for sale at Mutunguru buying centre in Kangema on Monday /ALICE WAITHERA

 Tea farmers from Kangema in Murang’a have filed a lawsuit to compel the government to allow them to sell their green leaves to private processors.

In the petition filed in the Kangema law courts on Monday, the Kanyenyaini farmers want the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Attorney General and the police to allow them to sell their leaves to their preferred buyers.

Francis Njuguna, Samuel Irungu, John Maichuhie, Ann Mwangi, Peter Higo, Samuel Karema, Samuel Mwangi and Stephen Irungu said it is their right to sell tea to any processor.

The farmers have been selling their leaves to Kiambu-based Ngorongo Tea Processing Company after falling out with the Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA) in 2014.

Kanyenyaini Tea Factory, which is managed by KTDA, refused to pick their tea after the farmers declined to sign a Green Leaf Supply Agreement.

The agreement, which was drafted by the agency, is draconian and would rob farmers of their rights as shareholders, they said.

Encourages theft

Senior resident magistrate Agnes Gichobi granted an application by KTDA to be enjoined in the case.

She directed all respondents to file replying affidavits before August 2, when the case will be heard.

The farmers are facing another case in which they have been charged with transporting, selling, buying and dealing with tea contrary to the provisions of the Crops Act.

They pleaded not guilty and were released on Sh2 million bond and a surety of a similar amount or Sh500,000 bail each. The case will be heard on August 30.

The cases came days after the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) raised concerns over increased tea hawking in Mt Kenya region. The agency called for implementation of the ban on the sale of green leaves.

Murang’a Agriculture executive Albert Mwaniki promised to establish an enforcement team to end tea hawking during a forum on July 19, in Murang’a town.

He said the county government will work with the police to end hawking. The official said tea hawking encourages theft in farms and buying centres.

But some stakeholders said private tea processors provide an alternative market for farmers who feel oppressed by KTDA. They called for liberalisation of the market.

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