By M’mbui Murithi
A section of tea farmers from Dumee area in Kiegoi-Antubochia ward in Igembe South sub-county have decided to sell their green tea leaves to Njeru industries, instead of Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA) citing favorable prices.
This comes barely days after KTDA requested Meru county commissioner as well as county government to help them arrest people whom they claimed were buying green tea leaves being ‘hawked’ by farmers.
Tea farmers in some parts of Meru County have accused KTDA of a number of issues among them unnecessary delay in collecting harvested green leaves.
According to Isaack Meme, 66, a tea farmer from Dumee and who planted his first tea in 1977, KTDA has over the years been impoverishing them by low payments that are subjected to numerous deductions like payment for overpriced fertilizers and other farm inputs and cess for road repairs among other deductions.
He said over the years they have had to cushion themselves by engaging in dairy and vegetable farming supplemented by Miraa cultivation and said they wholeheartedly welcome Njeru industries to buy their tea, a move which was long overdue.
“We welcome Njeru industries as the payment is better than KTDA who have kept us poor for a very long time. We can’t even rely on tea to educate our children, what has kept us on track is dairy farming and cultivation of Miraa and vegetables like kales and cabbages,” said Meme
Andrew Mwiraria, another tea farmer said it was their right to sell their tea to whomever they felt was offering them better prices for their products and farm inputs at relatively low prices.
Mwiraria added that tea sector should be like the Macadamia one whereby farmers are allowed to sell their nuts to the highest bidder.
Mwiraria lauded Njeru industries for promising to start a Sacco for the farmers where they’ll be saving and then borrow at low interest rates compared to most tea Saccos.
“Let us be given an opportunity to sell our tea to whoever offers us better prices as this is our right. As of now, Njeru industries is better than KTDA and we’ve all flocked to there and we’ll remain with them as long they’re paying us better. Macadamia farmers are a happy lot today because they sell their products to the highest bidder which should be the case with tea since KTDA has failed to pay us well for quite a long time,” said Mwiraria.
The Dumee tea farmers vowed to mobilize other farmers to carry out massive demonstrations against KTDA, if it doesn’t stop with interfering with their decision to sell their tea to the highest bidder.