Tea farmers from Murang’a County have threatened to walk out on Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) due to what they say is poor payment for their produce by the agency.
The growers from Kangema Constituency said they would shift to private processors who are giving them better prices for their produce. Speaking during a tea farmers forum, the farmers led by their spokesman James Wambugu claimed that KTDA has been taking them for a ride by offering meagre payments despite the cash crop being a major foreign exchange earner for the country.
Wambugu said the farmers are demanding increased monthly payment as well as bonus. “KTDA has been giving us Sh15 per kilo per month but we want this increased to Sh30,” he said.
He said the farmers pay Sh12 to casual workers leaving him with Sh3 profit per kilo. For the farmers who cannot afford to pay the casuals, he said, they have to do the picking by themselves, a practice which, he added, has turned the growers into slaves.
Wambugu said the money earned by the farmers is not enough to cater for their basic needs, forcing them to take up loans. He said that when bonus is released almost the whole amount is taken to repay debts. He also said the farmers are expecting Sh80 per kilo for the bonus set to be released in October.
Kanyenyaini Tea Factory directors, Wambugu said, had tipped them to pick good quality tea which would attract better prices.
However, the same directors called for another meeting last year and told them the bonus payment might decline.
“Last year we were paid Sh48 per kilo and this time we are taking nothing less than Sh80,” said Wambugu. “We shall go for tea hawking should KTDA fail to increase our payments as we have demanded” he added.
Tea hawking in the area has, however, not gone well with the tea agency which claims to be incurring losses as factories are not getting enough green leaves.