Storm in tea sector worsens as more farmers boycott plucking of green leaf
Wangari Njuguna and Mathew Ndung’u
The trouble brewing in the tea sector appears to be taking a turn for the worse with bumerous farmers from Mt Kenya region making good their threat to boycott plucking of the crop’s leaves in protests against low bonus payments.
Farmers from various parts of Murang’a boycotted tea picking, saying Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) has been exploiting them by giving them meager pay for their produce.
In Kiambu County, tea farmers urged the government to implement the new tea regulations without further delay.
The farmers drawn from different parts of Gatundu North and South joined their counterparts from other counties in agitating for reforms in the sector that has progressively registered low returns resulting in poverty.
Speaking at Ndiko Primary School in the presence of Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, area MP Wanjiku Kibe and her Thika counterpart Patrick Wainaina and nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura, the farmers took issue with KTDA for micromanaging their produce and failing to listen to their concerns.
Led by Peter Kinuthia, they narrated a myriad of challenges they have been grappling with to produce the country’s major income earner yet they still make zero profit.
In Murang’a, the boycott was called by leaders from various parts of the county who are demanding for the implementation of tea regulations expected to facilitate better prices.
Factories in the county, however, remained open to receive tea from few farmers who have declined to be part of the strike.
In parts of Kangema, farmers who had formed groups were moving from farm to farm chasing out those found picking tea.
Those who defied had their tea leaves thrown away. A spot check in some factories revealed that they received less than 25 per cent of the quantity of the Tea they collect on a normal day.
At Makomboki for instance, only 4,000 kilos of tea was collected instead of the usual 150,000.
Some of the farmers who spoke to Business Hub said they feel frustrated due to the poor prices and they are contemplating on selling their produce to hawkers.
“Tea picking has become like slavery to us because we work hard to pick tea yet we get very little in return” said the farmer.