…………………The tea industry in Kenya once cherished as gold, and, a leading foreign exchange earner, is in the doldrums, following the poor payment of the tea bonus….And, accusing fingers are pointing at Kenya Tea Development Agency, which the farmers are saying that it’s behind the stagnation of the tea sector..

…….The tea industry in Kenya once cherished as gold, and, a leading foreign exchange earner, is in the doldrums, following the poor payment of the tea bonus. The reduced annual tea bonus has caused an uproar on alleged economic sabotage of small scale tea farmers leading the High Court in Murang’a to order the Auditor-General to conduct an independent audit on tea earnings, bonuses and supply of green leaves by growers to the Kenya Tea Development Agency over the past financial year.

In the whole tea growing regions in the country, the cry is loud and the mere mention of this cash crop is evoking and eliciting chilling colds down the spines of the poor small scale tea farmers.

The once cherished Kenya tea which was flourishing at alarming rates has tumbled down the drain this time round to the detriment of the poor tea farmers.

The furor that has greeted the tea growing regions in the country was by declined tea payment bonus in comparison to other years. This years’ tea bonus payment took a downward spiral index to its’ lowest recent years.

The poor small scale tea farmers will only be reeling the poor effects of the tea bonus while counting their losses. They will still be subjected to that cocoon of poverty to almost all their lifetimes despite having a gold cash crop.

The once cherished tea bonus payment which lightened most villages in most tea growing regions and they became vibrant will be a pale shadow of its’ former self. And, the tea farmers have complained bitterly while calling for the total overhaul of the tea management.

And, accusing fingers are pointing at Kenya Tea Development Agency, which the farmers are saying that it’s behind the stagnation of the tea sector. Tea farmers have complained that the Kenya Tea Development Agency, has been the major stumbling block when it comes to the realization of good fortunes in the tea sector.

Kenya Tea Development Agency, is a private entity that emanated from a parastatal, the Kenya Tea Development Authority, in the year 2000. It manages 69 Tea factories, in 21 tea growing counties and whose services include, provision of inputs and agricultural extension services, transportation, warehousing, marketing and financing the tea sector.

Of late, it’s facing a string of criticism from the small scale tea farmers across the country. And, virtually all the tea farmers in the country have lost confidence in the Kenya Tea Development Agency management.

And, most tea farmers are advocating for the reinstatement of the Tea Board of Kenya to regulate the tea sector….thanks to the poor prices offered by Kenya Tea Development Agency. The tea farmers complained that since the Tea board of Kenya was scrapped they have been exploited by the Kenya Tea Development Agency and brokers at tea auctions which have seen their earning dwindle.

Those close to the Agency may be having different thoughts, but, there is a need to take some of the matters being raised seriously.

Kenya Tea Development Agency management has put up a spirited defense against allegations that its’ responsible for the current mess in the tea sector. Instead, it blames increased global production of the beverage crop and a depressed export market which has severely compromised prices.

But, still, the million-dollar questions still beg…..In whatever the case, can tea farmers’ trust in the cash crop and in Kenya Tea Development Agency be revived? Is Kenya Tea Development Agency doing enough to ensure farmers reap maximum returns and benefits from the tea, or, is the Agency sitting pretty as the crisis bites? Does the constitution of Kenya Tea Development Agency management serve the best interest of all players in the tea sector, or, is there a need for an overhaul as highlighted by various voices within the Kenyas’ tea sector.

According to Mandera South, Member of Parliament, Ali Adan, he said that, farmers must be protected from exploitation by cartels in the industry. He demanded openness and fairness in the sector to enable small scale tea farmers to profit from their investments.

He further stated that underhand deals at Kenya Tea Development Agency are detrimental to small scale farmers who take their green leaf to the Agency.

His Konoin, counterpart, Brighton Yegon, said that it’s not acceptable that farmers are being underpaid for their deliveries of green leaves to Kenya Tea Development Agency managed factories when the tea is the country’s second foreign exchange earner.

But, in whatever the case, the cartels in the tea sector, which have exploited small scale farmers, must be dismantled urgently to restore sanity in the industry. And, proper forensic audit of Kenya Tea Development Agency’s accounts should be carried out.


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