By HARRIET MUGO
Power struggles for the control of Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) have intensified as two factions of directors continue to fight over leadership of the sector that earns Kenya billions of shillings.
In Gatundu South, Kiambu County, farmers took to the streets October 21 to protest attempts by former directors to overthrow the current leadership of Kagwe Tea Factory.
They decried that despite the sub-sector supporting over 6 million Kenyans directly and indirectly and contributing in excess of Sh 100 billion to the economy yearly, the former leadership is hell-bent to leave the sector collapsed.
Under the former leadership, the tea growers decried that the sector has been experiencing a myriad of challenges that have affected their returns and the livelihoods of those who depend on tea.
Led by John Macharia, the farmers who lauded tea reforms introduced by the government last year as ones that renewed their hope told off former directors urging them to wait until another electioneering period to express interest to serve.
“Under the current leadership, we have enjoyed timely release of our monthly pay. We now enjoy loans at reduced interest rates and our tea has a ready market overseas,” said Macharia.
The government introduced new policy, regulatory and administrative reforms in the tea sub-sector among them a minimum reserve price at the Mombasa tea auction.
To address delay in payments to tea growers, the Tea Act requires a tea factory to pay at least 50%of payments due for green leaf delivered every month within 30 days of receipt of the proceeds of the sale of tea and the balance within three months from the end of the financial year.
As a result of the reforms, the farmers said they now enjoy plucking tea as they reap maximum profits and urged the government to intervene in the sector to resolve endless infights between former and current KTDA leadership.
“We are tired of these infights which we believe could affect our earnings as these people use our proceeds to facilitate the cases in court. The government must also do something to ensure that we continue enjoying our hard earned money,” Rosemary Wambui Kamau, a farmer said.
Between March and June last year, smallholder tea growers elected new directors for their tea factories using the system of one grower, one vote as provided for in the Tea Act, 2020.
All the 54 smallholder tea factories and KTDA Holdings have fully constituted their Boards and appointed their own company secretaries independent of the KTDA Management Agent.
The former directors have however been plotting a comeback, maintaining that their removal from office was illegally done.