CS overturns new tea pay rate after farmers’ protests
The Ministry of Agriculture has rejected an increment of one shilling per kilogramme for the monthly payments to tea farmers.
The increment that was announced by Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) Chairman Peter Kanyago last week sparked protests from farmers who said they expected not less than Sh10 increase from the current monthly payment of Sh15 per kilogramme.
After a meeting between Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and KTDA board members on Monday, the ministry ordered that a study be conducted on how to raise the monthly payments to Sh20 a kilogramme.
Mr Kiunjuri ordered the board to compile a report and submit it within 60 days and the new monthly payments effected in July.
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He further directed that farmers’ representatives be incorporated in the study.
“My office has received hundreds of memorandums from farmers expressing their suffering due to low monthly earnings. Tea prices in the market are high but farmers are getting peanuts,” said Mr Kiunjuri when he met the directors at his Kilimo House office.
But the CS said he was impressed with the board’s running of the tea sector after privatisation in 2000.
Kiunjuri’s directive seemed to overturn an earlier announcement by KTDA that increased monthly payments from Sh15 a kilogramme to Sh16.
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The agency had ruled out a further increment.
“We have no problem paying farmers Sh20 per kilogramme of the green leaf they surrender to us, but this is the maximum we can offer,” said Mr Kanyago.
He claimed that majority of farmers were not keen on a larger increment, fearing that workers would demand more for harvesting the leaf.
The harvesters charge between Sh10 and Sh12 per kilogramme of green leaf.
“Majority of farmers do not want an increase as farm labourers will take advantage of the situation and hike charges,” said Kanyago.
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A number of factories had indicated their willingness to increase monthly payments.
Last year, Kiru Tea Factory notified KTDA of its decision to increase green leaf payment to Sh25 to cope with increased cost of living.
“The agency has been aware of Kiru Factory’s decision and that is why Sh16 per kilogramme remains unacceptable to us,” said the factory’s chairman, Chege Kirundi.
At Makomboki Tea Factory, farmers rejected the one shilling increment.
The factory’s director, James Muchai, said the increment fell below farmer’s expectations.
“The farmers are already overburdened by high costs. There is a need for the agency to listen to their cry,” said Mr Muchai.