By Gitahi Ngunyi
Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) directors are furious. The cause of their anger is an ongoing campaign by Murang’a tea farmers and the county governor Mwangi wa Iria.
Wa Iria wants the agency disbanded and reconstituted as a cooperative.
Yesterday, Wa Iria accompanied by hundreds of tea farmers extracted orders to have KTDA accounts audited by the Auditor General.
Farmers countrywide have been expressing outrage at the falling monthly payments for their crops. In Nyeri and parts of Rift Valley have resorted to uprooting their tea bushes to express their frustrations.
But it is the Murang’a farmers who have decided to take the fight for better prices to the KTDA directors.
They want all the directors to be sent home and KTDA reconstituted along the cooperative model where voting in the annual general meeting is on one man one vote basis.
The farmers also want the Mombasa tea auction disbanded and replaced with a Tea Exchange that will be based in Nairobi.
Currently, KTDA operates as a company where voting is on the strength of farmers shareholding.
Shortly after the High Court orders were issued, KTDA released a statement cautioning politicians from the county from politicising tea issues.
The agency said Murang’a farmers received the highest earnings this year claiming those complaining against falling prices were not genuine representatives of farmers in the county.
“Factories in Muranga County earned the highest compared to others, we urge the political fraternity and other interested parties not to politicize tea business but understand the dynamics driving the sector” Erustus Gakuya, Zone two Board Member said in the KTDA statement.
The agency dismissed farmers representatives from the county who have called for its reorganisation.
“We are aware that there were some people purporting to be farmers and representing farmers in Muranga, but we are the elected leaders and appeal to our farmers not to be misled by such people who are not working for the interests of the farmers,” said Gakuya.
The agency said tea factories in Muranga County have earned a total of Sh12.3 billion from tea sales for the year ended June 2019.
According to KTDA, the factories in Muranga County processed 181 million kgs of green leaf into 43.85 million kilos of made black tea which was sold at an average price of US$ 2.59 compared to US$3.14 realized the previous year, representing an 18 percent drop.
The agency admits that earnings for farmers dropped Sh12.33 billion compared to Sh14.49 billion earned in 2018.
“Out of the Ksh 8.6 billion revenue, farmers have already received Sh2.74 billion, as initial payment, and the remaining Sh5.89 billion will be paid to the farmers at the end of this month. Last and this year, Muranga County earned highest revenues of all the 16 tea growing counties,” said KTDA in the statement.