The government will spare no one in delivering on the tea subsector reforms, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has warned.
Speaking at the closure of the two-day tea reforms summit which he hosted in Kericho town, Kericho County, the Deputy President said there will be sweeping changes Kenya Tea Development Agency for the body to respond better to the needs of the farmer.
“Let nobody think this was a talk show. This is the beginning of restoring the dignity of the farmer. We must succeed,” Mr Gachagua said.
The Deputy President said the reforms in the tea subsector are key to a strong economy and improved lives of small-holder farmers, who are at the bottom of the pyramid.
He added that factions in the management of KTDA are hurting the farmer, who is already suffering from low returns.
The Deputy President ordered the KTDA directors to withdraw cases in court, which are delaying supply of fertiliser to the farmers.
“We hope you will sit down and sort out who will supply the fertiliser for the farmer. We know some of the directors are sponsoring the ongoing court cases. You must withdraw the cases by Monday (next week),” he said,”
The Deputy President also warned that even though the agency is not under the government, the interest of the farmer comes first. Fighting over who will supply fertiliser are driven by deal commissions, yet farmers are waiting for fertiliser as the rains continue pounding parts of the country.
“We are a responsible government; we must ensure the farmers are taken care of,” he said.
Mr Gachagua said that from the conference, farmers and other stakeholders had indicated that sweeping changes are key to making KTDA an agency serving the interest of the small-holders.
“We have collected negative reports about some members of the management of KTDA. There will be changes on accountability and prudent use of farmer’s money. The money of the farmer will not be lost any more. We are willing to talk and engage for the benefit of the farmer. Do not prove difficult that KTDA is a private entity,” the Deputy President warned.
In its bid to put more money into the pocket of the farmer, the government is taking various measures to bring down the cost of production.
This includes distribution of subsidised fertiliser and review of energy regulations to allow factories which are producing electricity to consume and sell the excess.
Currently, some tea factories generate electricity. Energy regulations direct them to sell the electricity to Kenya Power, then buy it back for internal use- but at a higher rate.
“What has been announced here by the Cabinet Secretary for Energy Davis Chirchir is one of the gains of this conference. Within 40 days, factories generating power will use it. This will lower the cost of production. KTDA should not start any other project from the money saved; the money must trickle down to the farmer,” he said.
Mr Chirchir said electricity accounts for about 30 per cent of the cost of tea production. Saving this and selling the excess power will benefit the farmer even more.
Other regulations allowing the factories to sell their power to the national grid or other factories will be ready in 45 days.
Mr Gachagua said KTDA has been diversifying into various projects and subsidiaries without engaging the farmer, who is the most important in the production value chain.
Farmers and the other stakeholders raised various issues, which if addressed will deliver lasting and beneficial reforms.
Out of the recommendations of the meeting, Mr Gachagua said the Secretariat under the Office of the Deputy President will meet by Tuesday next week to filter the suggestions of the stakeholders into legal, policy and operational categories for action by the relevant agencies.