Leaders in Bomet County have called on the national government to take control of the tea sector to save farmers from unscrupulous players who exploit small scale tea farmers.
Ten Members of Bomet County Assembly led by Rongena ward Representative Mr. Samwel Keter said that the government’s regulating body Tea Board of Kenya (TBK) should be at the forefront in the investigations on the low pay to tea farmers by Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA) managed factories.
Keter said that KTDA should be made accountable for what they called management levy which the farmers claimed was exorbitant and expensive hence taking large amount of farmers’ money.
Addressing the press in Bomet town Thursday, marking World Food Day, MCAs from tea growing wards in the County lamented that their inputs were not accommodated during a meeting of tea farmers with members of the National Assembly Committee on Agriculture chaired by Mandera South Member of Parliament Mr. Ali Adan, at Mogogosiek tea factory last Monday.
The MCAs Ambrose Koech (Mogogosiek), Robert Sarbai (Embomos), Augustine Kosgei (Chemager), Robert Rono (Sigor), Ridha Chepkirui (nominated), Joseph Kellong (Kembu),Wesley Bett (Kongasis), Charles Langat (Boito) and Keter who read the statement said that farmers must be protected from exploitation by cartels in the tea industry especially from KTDA and other players at Mombasa auction centre and multi-national tea firms.
“Tea farmers are living in abject poverty whereas KTDA staff are swinging in huge salaries and driving expensive cars and if the government was serious, it was the KTDA employees who should get huge salary cut and not farmers in case of tea price falling in the world market,” Keter said.
The leaders wondered what happened to the insurance taken by KTDA to cushion farmers in case of calamities.
“We appeal to the national government and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to launch investigations into the cause of low price pay in the tea sector and what was happening to insurance fund which was to cushion farmers,” MCAs lamented.
They pointed out that the Agency should be audited and investigated by multi-sector agencies to bring to book all those involved in sabotaging the small scale tea farmers.
The leaders stated that it was not practical that tea was the second leading foreign exchange earner for the country after diaspora remittance, yet tea growers were wallowing in poverty.
“If this is not conspiracy, how come at the tea auction in Mombasa on Tuesday October 15, 2019 the prices were at all times highest compared to prices in the past two years after negative press on the brokers and complaints by leaders,” Keter quipped.
They said that the brokers, auctioneers and multi-national tea firms now want to hoodwink tea farmers that now all things are right after they have exploited the farmers.
Among other institutions which the leaders want back to the County level included the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya (TRFK) which would assist farmers to grow the right tea variety required in the world market.
The leaders said that they were in support of Bomet Governor Dr. Hillary Barchok and his Kericho counterpart Prof Paul Chepkwony proposal to establish a tea auction in the South Rift to send the region’s tea to the world market.
Last Monday, the National Assembly committee on agriculture held a stake holders meeting at Mogogosiek tea factory grounds that was attended by MPs including the host Mr. Brighton Yegon (Konoin), Mr. Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo), Mr. John Mwirigi (Igembe South), Dr Daniel Tuitoek (Mogotio), Mr. Janeth Sitienei (Turbo), Mr. Japeth Mutai (Bureti) and Mr. Justus Murunga (Matunga).