Inside Politics

Ministry in tough actions to rid tea sector of cartels

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021 00:00 |
A small scale tea farmer picks tea. Photo/PD/File

Operational and governance challenges that deny tea farmers maximum returns by first dealing with cartels in the value chain will soon come to an end.

The warning comes after the government said it had strengthened its resolve to address corruption and conflict of interest in the management of the tea sector shortly after Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) headquarters was raided and data carried way.

With the data in the hands of the government, it is expected that answers farmers has been yearning for will be unveiled, and it may help find solutions to the challenges of middlemen and brokers.

Speaking at a Nairobi hotel during a meeting with editors from various media houses, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said the team that had been sent to KTDA intends to do an investigation to know where the challenge lies in the value chain.

Farmers will

“We want to do a forensic audit so that those who are culpable, criminally, action can be taken. The regulator will do a forensic audit which the farmers have been asking for,” he said.

Challenges include directors of smallholder tea factories being part of the board of the management agent who is KTDA, raising concerns of one player being an agent and principal at the same time.

However, Munya noted that the biggest challenge during recent attempts to implement tea regulations has been KTDA leveraging the law to frustrate any attempts to streamline the sector.

“Some stakeholders in the sector are using cartels in the judiciary to frustrate and delay reforms so that they can continue to reap from the sector,” Munya said.

It follows a raft of measures including the Crops (Tea Industry) Regulations, 2020, were opposed with KTDA taking legal action against the Agriculture CS.

Further, an executive order directing the KTDA to conduct elections for its directors in 54 factories was also suspended by the court.

However, elections are ongoing in some parts of the country with the CS saying it is the farmers themselves who are taking elections.

“When we realised we had been stopped by the court, we let farmers run the show,” Munya said.

“Those meetings are legitimate and expressing the farmers will. KTDA has been appointed an agent to do certain things for them. But over the years farmers have had no say in what happens to their tea.”

In a statement, KTDA said that they had nothing to hide in regard to financial transactions and business operations.

This was after its headquarters were raided on Friday last week by individuals who presented themselves as police officers, arresting members of staff who were later released, but four were detained.

KTDA said computer servers and hard disks, payment records of 620,000 farmers, shareholders registers, title deeds and other important records and documents were retrieved unlawfully.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i warned of an inefficient middlemen who were to blame for the challenges tea farmers are currently facing.

“These middlemen threaten to kill the sector if not urgently tamed. They should know that tea does not belong to KTDA, it belongs to Kenyans,” Matiang’i said, adding that targeted reforms in the tea sector will not be derailed.

“We will stay on course. Uhuru’s objective is to reform the sector so that farmers earn better,” Matiang’i said.

To bring down the cost of transportation, there are plans to start transporting tea to Mombasa using the SGR.

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