• Tea is one of the most taxed crops in the country.
• There are up to 43 taxes levied on tea from the point of production to the point of sale at the local shops.
The Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) has urged the government to review local tea levies such as transport cess.
David Ichoho, KTDA Holdings chairman said despite Kenya producing some of the world's best teas and other successes, the tea industry still suffers some considerable challenges such as taxes and levies.
He said tea is one of the most taxed crops in the country today with up to 43 taxes levied on tea from the point of production to the point of sale at the local shops.
“This minimises returns to farmers. I wish to call upon Her Excellency Governor to review these local levies such as transport cess, and through the Council of Governors to review taxes on tea as a national product,” he said.
Ichoho spoke during the International Tea Day at Embu University in Embu County. The ITD is marked every year on May 21.
He said marketing tea is also a challenge adding that the product has not received adequate marketing to increase sales.
He urged county government through line ministries, to play a leading role in the marketing of tea to reduce reliance on traditional markets.
“We should encourage our people to drink more tea so that farmers can gain more income,” he said.
He said in the last financial year, smallholder tea farmers produced approximately 54 million kilos of tea, earning approximately Sh3.4 billion.
Ichoho said most tea produced in the country is the black CTC type that is the most widely drunk in the world. He said tea factories are now planning to venture into orthodox teas as a diversification measure to boost farmers 'incomes.
“We also wish to undertake value addition by diversifying into flavoured teas for local markets and export. I urge the county and national governments to give our factories grants to help reduce the large capital outlays required to set up orthodox plants,” he said.
Other challenges are the high cost of energy which is unsustainable and to address this, factories are now venturing into renewable energy such as hydropower and solar power to reduce the energy burden.
Tea hawking is also a menace and KTDA urged county governments to enact laws complementing the existing national laws to effectively deal with tea hawking at the county level.
Ichoho said climate change is a major challenge that if not addressed with urgency, will erode the gains made in the sector.
“Climate change will undoubtedly affect our ability to produce tea into the future. Changing rainfall patterns pose a big threat to the livelihoods of thousands of farmers in Kenya. For example, earlier this year, the country experienced an unprecedented drought that caused a drop in tea production by about 60 per cent,” he said.
“To help mitigate this risk, factories are ready to work with the county government and other partners in the environment space to plant trees around the tea growing areas to conserve the ecosystems which support tea growing."
Michael Orang’i, Country Director of Rainforest Alliance said they are supporting tea farmers to improve their livelihoods by introducing other income-generating activities alongside tea production.
This will enable farmers to increase their income base and support the tea crop in their farms.
“Our mission is to make the world a better place by ensuring that people and nature thrive in harmony. We offer training and capacity building for tea producers to encourage them to produce tea while conserving the environment and addressing the effects of climate change,” he said.
Orang’i encouraged farmers to adopt farming systems that will help address the effects of climate change effects such as drought, floods, pest infestation and diseases.