Tea buyers boycott KTDA factory over director in sex abuse exposé

A tea plucking machine commonly known as valiant, at James Finlay tea estate in Kericho which has fully mechanised its operations in the estates in this photo taken on March 10, 2023.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

A fallout is nigh in the tea sector as both Finlays and Lipton Teas call for removal of the newly elected director of Tegat Tea Factory, John Chebochok, who has been accused of sexual exploitation of women in a BBC News investigative expose.

Tegat Tea owns Toror Tea Factory and both firms are part of the 54 tea companies that own Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA).
Lipton Teas has stopped buying tea from the Tegat/Toror factories and has called for other processors to follow suit.

Finlays on the other hand has threatened to cease buying the leaves from Toror Tea Factory if the accused remains a director.

"I am writing to you on behalf of Lipton Teas and Infusions with great concern and dismay on the appointment of Mr John Chebochok...we respectfully urge the relevant authorities to reverse his appointment and take necessary steps to ensure such incidents don't happen in the future," said Lipton Teas in an email to agriculture Cabinet secretary Mithika Linturi from their chief supply officer Bruno Laine.

"We have immediately ceased purchasing from Tegat/ Toror Factory and we are urging our industry partners to do the same."

The companies and Kenya's top tea buyers join other lobby groups that have called for the removal of Mr Chebochok including the Kenya Women Parliamentarians Association (KWPA) and the Coalition Against Sexual Violence among others who raised concerns over his appointment.

Mr Chebochok was elected director of the Tegat/Toror tea factories (Ainamoi zone) in Kericho County.

"We are writing to request that you immediately remove John Chebochok from his position as director of Toror Tea Factory, a KTDA factory," read the email from Finlays to KTDA on July 1.

"Please be aware that we will not be able to continue to purchase tea from Toror Factory if Mr Chebochok holds the role of director."

KTDA issued a statement yesterday asking for more time to work with stakeholders to resolve the concerns raised by Mr Chebochok's election, noting that tea factories are run independently.

KTDA said that sexual harassment and other unethical behaviour pose a risk to Tegat Tea Factory and the entire tea sector.
Mr Chebochok had worked as a contractor at James Finlays (now Browns Investment and was sacked by the firm in 2023 after scandal expose.

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