Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called for reforms in the tea sector to cushion farmers from exploitation and bring to an end the monopoly of the Kenya Tea Development Agency.
Speaking at his Capitol Hill offices when he hosted Kiru Tea Factory Directors, the ODM Party Leader hit out at KTDA for failing to protect and safeguard the interests of small-scale tea farmers in the country.
Raila accused the KTDA Board of clinging to power since 2000 while presiding over gross mismanagement at the agency. Odinga further accused the board of being out of sync with issues affecting farmers and called for a thorough investigation and audit into the operations of the Board.
“Farmers are complaining of an array of malpractices, including misappropriation of funds. They want a thorough investigation and audit of the parent body KTDA and culprits held accountable. Our Judiciary also needs to play its role and stand with the farmers to save the sector.” Odinga said.
The former PM appealed to the Agriculture Ministry to weed out cartels in the sector and restore transparency in the operations.
Mr. Odinga, blamed mismanagement for the increased cases of farmers uprooting the cash crop in various parts of the matter adding that the situation must be addressed immediately.
“We are staring at a crisis that we have to confront. In recent months, we have been treated to dramatic scenes and media reports of tea farmers uprooting their crops or promising to do so because the crop no longer pays.” Raila added.
Kenya is one of the largest exporters of tea in the world with the country having exported 474.86 million Kgs in 2018 raking in a whopping 140.86 billion.
Kenyan tea is sold through the Mombasa Tea Auction which is regulated by the KTDA with auctions held weekly on Mondays and Tuesday. Tea bought from the auction may be exported or packed and sold locally.
The crop is mostly is grown in the Mt Kenya and Rift valley region with a majority of the production being from small-scale farmers.