TEA SECTOR REFORMS

We've nothing to hide, KTDA says as Matiang'i insists tea reforms unstoppable

Matiang'i heaped blame on middlemen who he says have made tea farmers suffer.

In Summary

• The CS said middlemen threaten to kill the sector if not urgently tamed.

• KTDA says recent events have disrupted, among others, the green leaf payment to farmers, the procurement of fertilizer, payment to suppliers, and employees’ salaries.

Farmers picking tea in Kangaita village
'TEA IS AN INVESTMENT': Farmers picking tea in Kangaita village
Image: FILE

The Kenya Tea Development Authority has said it had nothing to hide regarding its operations, financial transactions, and business.

This was after the Agency Headquarters was last Friday raided by individuals who presented themselves as police officers.

The raid led to the arrest of staffers who were later released but four were detained.

The reason for the raid still remains unclear.

"The criminal allegations being levelled against the group are false and malicious," KTDA said.

This comes as the government insisted the ongoing reforms within the tea sector are unstoppable.

"The intention of the comprehensive reforms by the government is to ensure that farmers access markets and get value for their money," Interior CS Fred Matiang'i maintained on Tuesday at Serena Hotel during a meeting with editors from various media houses.

Matiang'i heaped blame on the 'inefficient middlemen' who have for a long time made tea farmers suffer.

The CS said middlemen threaten to kill the sector if not urgently tamed.

"Tea does not belong to KTDA, it belongs to Kenyans," the CS said.

Matiang'i said for reforms to succeed, tough decisions have to be made.

"If we stay this course, our country will go places," he said.

Matiang'i said the targeted reforms in the tea sector will not be derailed.

"We will stay on course. Uhuru's objective is to reform the sector so that farmers earn better," Matiang'i said.

The CS said reforms agenda will also be targeted at the Kenya Power and Lighting Company.

Agriculture CS Peter Munya said Kenya in the 1970s and 80s used to export excess food.

However, it has now become a net importer of food.

Munya said hopelessness has been experienced in rural areas because middlemen have messed up with the tea sector.

"Those who make the biggest kill are those involved in trading yet the primary producer gets almost nothing," Munya said.

Munya said the production of tea has gone down while farmers in some parts of the country have started uprooting tea.

He said the government is not fighting KTDA but its agenda is to review the sector.

Munya said the government is focused on agriculture since 80 per cent of Kenyans are directly and indirectly earning a living from the sector.

The CS said despite the attractiveness of the sector, it has been neglected, a move that has allowed organised crime.

The CS said there is a conflict of interest among directors in KTDA among many other ills that are at the centre of investigations.

He said some of the directors were involved in the transportation of tea leaves to Mombasa, a move that sees farmers pay double.

Munya said the government was considering moving tea leaves using SGR.

"We will negotiate publicly and have cost brought down," he said.

The CS said the government will help farmers to exercise their rights by providing logistical support and security.

Munya said the elections of directors by farmers will end by May.

He accused KTDA of manipulating the farmers register by kicking out farmers who support reforms.

The agency said the recent events have disrupted, among others, the green leaf payment to farmers, the procurement of fertilizer, payment to suppliers, and employees’ salaries.

KTDA said after review, the officers retrieved computer servers and hard disks, payment records of 620,000 farmers, shareholders registers, title deeds and other important records and documents unlawfully.

"The Group does not have anything to cover up and has been in existence for the last 21 years doing lawful business," they noted.

"All efforts are being made to return operations to normalcy within the shortest time possible."

The building remains in the hands of the police who have denied authorized KTDA staff access to the offices.

The Agency said the Magistrate’s Court order that was produced to facilitate the raid neither made mention of detention of staff nor did it include the restriction of entry into and exit out of the building by KTDA employees.

"These unlawful actions continue to be undertaken by law enforcement offices notwithstanding the existence of a High Court of Kenya Order restraining such an action," KTDA said.