NYERI, Kenya, Sept 2 – A section of tea farmers from the Mt Kenya region want the ministry of agriculture to subject the new tea regulations to public participation before implementing them.
The farmers from Gitugi and Gathuthi tea factories say that although the reforms are necessary for the sector, they need proper explanation on them to ward off unnecessary changes that may kill the industry which is a lifeline to millions of farmers.
The ministry of agriculture has proposed new regulations in the sector, among them that all Kenyan tea must be sold in a centralized auction in Mombasa to ward off direct sales to buyers usually agreed by the Kenya Tea Development Aagency and buyers.
The ministry in the regulations also want directors in tea factories to be limited to two with each factory having a company secretary.
The ministry also proposes that buyers pay before carting away tea to ensure farmers’ money gets to individual factories’ accounts.
The farmers argue that the ministry must conduct public participation so that they understand the new rules and separate wheat from chuff.
“These new regulations that have been proposed we are only hearing about them in mass media, most of us have no idea and have not read them. The ministry must consult us, after all the tea sector belongs to us ” said Charles Kiragu, a Nyeri-based tea farmer said.
He added that the ministry should not allow politics in the sector which he says may collapse just like the coffee sector did.
The farmers cited the reduction of numbers of directors as counterproductive as it may lead to the collapse of factories since it’s possible for three to form a cartel.
“We as farmers are opposed to this suggestion since it’s very easy for three to collude and pull off “mega deals”, this may defeat the ministry effort to eradicate corruption or cartels in the sector if that is their goal,” said Kiragu.
The farmers said that directors should be chosen as per electrol zones marked by KTDA to ensure farmers voice is heard from all from all corners.
The farmers said that the sector is too important for the economy and should not be treated casually.
“We are aware that the main target of ministry reforms is KTDA but even though the body need reforms which we all agree they must be done in a way that the body which has served us since 1975 is protected from cartels which we understand now want to benefit for their own selfish gains” said Kiragu.
It will not be clear whether the ministry will subject the new rules to public participation before they are enacted into law.