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Murang’a tea farmers face reduced earnings

Tea factories managers from Murang’a have warned that farmers’ earnings might decline if the government does not lift the ban on logging imposed early this year.

They said the factories largely rely on wood in tea processing and the shortage is now hurting them.

Most of the factories, they added, have now been forced back to using diesel which is too expensive for their operations.

Led by Njunu Mugwe, the chairman Njunu Tea Factory, they warned that increased cost of production would have a direct impact on the farmers’ income.

“The cost of processing tea is bound to increase and this would mean income of the farmers will decline” he said. He appealed to the government to consider lifting the ban, saying it might affect operations of the factories.

“Firewood has become scarce making it expensive and turning to another alternative is even more expensive” Mugwe said. Further, he said, the county government has also increased levies on the lorries ferrying the firewood from Sh500 to Sh1,000 per trip, claiming that the charges are too high.

Four out of the 10 factories in the area have initiated a hydropower project which is set to generate 5.6 megawatts.The Sh2.2 biilion project was aimed at cutting down on the cost of fuel and power bills in the factories thus increasing the farmers’ income.

Currently, Mugwe said, every farmer is being deducted Sh2 per kilogramme to cater for the cost of fuel in tea processing and this translates into millions of shillings.

The project which was started back in 2014 was set to be completed by 2016 but came across obstacles as some landowners declined to allow pipes to pass through their land.

According to the project’s plan, factories will only consume one megawatt and the remaining power would be supplied to those living in the neighbourhood at a subsidised price.

The government banned logging and timber harvesting in public forests in February.   

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