• This comes at a time when parts of Kericho and Bomet Counties have in the last few weeks witnessed wrangles and conflicts in the tea estates.
• This was a result of disagreement on the use of tea-picking machines and related issues.
The Federation of Kenyan Employers (FKE) has called on the government to address the ongoing business disruptions in large-scale tea producer farms in Bomet, Kericho, Nandi and Nyamira counties.
FKE has equally condemned the ongoing disruption of businesses in large-scale tea producer farms stating that the raids and thefts have now escalated into organised assaults on business premises and the deliberate destruction of crucial assets.
“Given the ramifications of these incidents on our economy, large-scale tea producers and their workers, we call on all parties to embrace social dialogue,” the federation said through a presser.
“We urge them to show commitment and tolerance towards resolving the dispute that has since caused the suspension of operations of some large-scale tea producers.”
This comes at a time when parts of Kericho and Bomet Counties have in the last few weeks witnessed wrangles and conflicts in the tea estates.
This was a result of disagreement on the use of tea-picking machines and related issues.
The acts of violence in Kericho County in the last two days follow similar violent protests witnessed in the neighbouring Bomet County a week ago, where six police officers were attacked and seriously injured by youths who were illegally harvesting tea at the James Finlay tea Company farm.
FKE executive director and CEO Jacqueline Mugo said the tea sector’s performance has been on the rebound following the recent decline in export volumes.
This, she said has been mainly driven by the effects of the Russia-Ukraine crisis that caused a global economic recession and thus negatively affected the commodity markets.
“The incidents in the four counties have severely disrupted business operations of the tea sector, which is a key foreign exchange earner for our nation with exports worth Sh 178.1 billion as of 2023,” Mugo said.
“The tea sector is indeed a major contributor to the national economy and a source of livelihood for thousands of workers and farmers.”
According to the Tea Board of Kenya (TBK), the country reported an increase in shipments to $1.07 billion (Sh 139.21 billion) last year.
Due to a weak shilling, the average price of the leaves at the Mombasa tea auction jumped 18.6 percent to an average of $2.49 (Sh324) per kilogram last year.
The increase in export earnings was attributed to the depreciation of the Kenya Shilling against the dollar as well as improved prices.
“Export volumes in 2022 stood at 410.2 million kilograms of made tea against 388 million kilograms in 2021,” TBK said.
The board stated a weaker shilling against the dollar played a significant role in improved earnings as it depreciated 11.58 percent in the 12 months to December 2022, closing at KSh123.4 to the US dollar.
FKE also noted that several large-scale tea producers have also scaled down operations with jobs of approximately 16,000 employees of the multinational tea companies at risk.
“As the country grapples with a rise in unemployment there is a need for the government to champion the creation of an enabling environment that fosters local economic growth, sustainable enterprises, job creation and overall development,” FKE said through a presser.
Mugo said that the federation stands in solidarity with its members in the tea industry and urged the government to take swift and decisive action to restore law and order in the affected areas.
She also urged the government to ensure the safety and security of all tea stakeholders.
“We call on the local communities to cooperate with the authorities and to refrain from any acts of violence or intimidation that may jeopardise the peace and stability of the regions,” Mugo added.
She said that the federation believes that only through peaceful and constructive engagement can the challenges facing the tea sector be resolved in a sustainable and mutually beneficial manner.
“FKE continues to provide support where needed to help the parties reach a win-win solution,” she added.