More than 3,000 smallholder tea farmers from Kericho, Bomet, Nandi and Nakuru counties who had diverted their green leaf supply to competitor factories have returned to Kenya Tea Development Authority(KTDA).
The farmers cited better service delivery, especially during the current Covid-19 period, where KTDA-managed tea factories have adjusted operations and managed to collect increased volumes of tea within tight timelines.
“Some of us left KTDA-managed factories for the competition hoping to earn better, but we were wrong. KTDA-managed factories are far much better in terms of how they manage our tea,” Joel Kitur, a tea farmer who supplies green leaf to Chebut Tea Factory, said.
“We have realised that the services we receive from our factory are superior. In the long term, we are getting better pay from our factories, we get important advice on how to manage our farms and the management is keen to listen to our concerns. They are approachable.”
KTDA Regional Manager Charles Manegene said that since 2016, three more KTDA managed tea factories have been constructed in Kericho and Bomet Counties by the farmers to improve service delivery.
“With all the challenges we are facing from our operating environments, KTDA-managed factories remain at the top with timely payments to tea farmers in the region and indeed across the world. Our payments, the initial monthly and second payments (bonus) combined, is higher than what others pay. The farmers who had left realized that they made a mistake and are now coming back,” Mr Manegene said.
The returning tea farmers rejoined 16 KTDA-managed tea factories, namely Toror, Tegat, Momul, Chelal, Litein, Kapkatet, Rorok, Kapset, Mogogosiek, Kobel, Boito, Kapkoros, Tirgaga, Olengunone, Motigo and Tebesonik, spread across the two counties.
The influx of tea farmers to KTDA-managed tea factories comes after another estimated 1,000 smallholder tea farmers in Bomet County rejoined Rorok Tea Factory this year.
In addition to conducive tea growing weather conditions in the year, the migration of the smallholder tea farmers to KTDA-managed tea factories is responsible for the upsurge of the cumulative green leaf production produced during the 2019/20 financial year.
As of the end of June 2020, KTDA-managed tea factories in Kericho and Bomet counties had recorded 30.5 percent increase in the total volumes of green leaf produced to 385.47 million kgs up from 295.10 million Kgs the previous year.
Smallholder tea farmers in Kisii, Nyamira,Nandi, Vihiga, Kakamega and Trans-Nzoia counties have also increased their supply to KTDA managed tea factories.
As a result, in Kisii and Nyamira counties, tea volumes shot up by 27 percent to 192.7 million Kgs of green leaf by close of June 2020 from 151.8 million Kgs recorded during same period in 2019.
Nandi, Vihiga, Kakamega and Trans-Nzoia counties also recorded an increase in green leaf tea volumes to 66.2 million kg in June 2020 from 58.7 million Kgs the previous year.
Other tea growing regions also recorded an increase in tea volumes.
The increase in tea volumes has led to an 8 percent drop in the average price per kilo of processed tea from USD 2.59 in 2018/19 financial year to USD 2.38 in 2019/20 at the Mombasa Tea Auction.
KTDA Holdings is owned by 54 factory companies that are in turn owned by 600,000 smallholder tea farmers spread across 17 tea growing counties in Kenya.
The tea farmers are shareholders of the 54 tea companies (69 processing plants) that own KTDA Holdings.
The KTDA Holdings has eight subsidiary companies namely KTDA (MS) Ltd, Kenya Tea Packers Ltd, KTDA Power Ltd, Tea and Machinery Engineering Ltd, Chai Trading Ltd, Greenland Fedha Ltd, Majani Insurance Brokers Ltd and KTDA Foundation Ltd.