Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has assured tea farmers that the government is in the process of implementing the Tea Act of 2020 sponsored by Kericho County Senator Aaron Cheruiyot.
Speaking during the closing ceremony of a three-day conference dubbed, “Mkulima Kwanza” held at the Kericho Golf Club, the DP noted that implementing the Act will help eradicate some of the bottlenecks that contribute to the decline of earnings of smallholder farmers.
The implementation of the Act was blocked in court by the Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA), Kenya Tea Growers Association ( KTGA), EATTA, and the county government of Bomet.
It stipulated for the direct sale of tea and the re-establishment of the Tea Board of Kenya, which will among other duties monitor and license agencies involved in the buying and selling of tea.
During the conference, tea farmers complained about declining tea prices leading to unsustainable earnings, poor governance practices among the institutions managing the smallholder tea sector, conflict of interest along the value chain, their lack of participation in decision-making processes, lack of transparency in price discovery and transmission mechanism at the tea auction, exploitation of tea farmers by middlemen through green leaf hawking malpractice, delayed payments, declining quality of Kenyan tea and its competitiveness in global markets and low levels of value addition and product diversification of Kenya tea.
It is against this background that the government revealed that it had initiated various reforms to address the challenges facing the sub-sector.
A team led by Bomet Senator Advocate Hilary Kiprotich Sigei said they had reached an agreement with the concerned team to withdraw the cases they filed against the implementation of the Tea Act 2020 in an effort to operationalize it.
It was also revealed that KTGA and EATTA have made an undertaking to withdraw the cases provided that consent is recorded to take care of their interests.
Another resolution was that Tea Policy be expedited and completed within 3 months so as to cover all issues comprehensively through relevant institutions.
The meeting also resolved that the government should revise the taxation levels on tea value-addition products and provide subsidized and affordable fertilizers of the right quality in a timely manner.
They agreed on the establishment of a fertilizer factory in Kenya, and the provision of training and extension services to farmers on the correct usage and application of fertilizers, pesticides, and seed varieties.
It was also agreed that the county government should hire extension officers that are well-trained on matters of tea and empower small-scale farmers to adopt the use of technology.
The Tea Board of Kenya should commence registration of all tea farmers, KTDA to partner with NHIF to come up with a health insurance cover for farmers, legislation of management of the Tea Cess fund, and that the Tea Board of Kenya should create a website/platform where information is readily available to the farmers.
By Benedict Ngetich
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