Editorials

Deliver tea reforms with rare finesse, Mr Munya

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Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Kenya is a well-known source of quality tea and coffee in the world and there have been a push to see the commodities fetch more for the country through value addition among other changes.
  • One of the major items of the Tea Act is the automation of the regional tea auction based in Mombasa that gets the commodity from countries like Rwanda that has occasionally been beating Kenya to the prize money on value addition.

The Tea Act, 2020 easily ranks as a major achievement of the sector, especially the farmer who expects to grow earnings when the reforms kick in in the near future.

Kenya is a well-known source of quality tea and coffee in the world and there have been a push to see the commodities fetch more for the country through value addition among other changes.

One of the major items of the Tea Act is the automation of the regional tea auction based in Mombasa that gets the commodity from countries like Rwanda that has occasionally been beating Kenya to the prize money on value addition.

It is notable that the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya has been keen on ensuring the reforms take shape to ensure farmers get value for money they put in producing the beverage.

Now, the CS has asked the tea auction to automate within one month or the Nairobi Coffee Exchange will be licensed to trade tea.

According to the East African Tea Trade Association, the owners of the auction, the Mombasa facility is ready to automate after months of test run.

We urge all the stakeholders, including the ministry, the farmers and the tea auction to take their time, guided by timelines, to ensure that the tea reforms and the new law is implemented with as many hitches as possible.

We ask the players to dialogue and agree on timelines that will be feasible for all the parties involved without threats and of course leaving no room for sleeping on the auction job.

While these reforms have to take place without delay and there is a danger when the reforms gather dust on the shelves, we think that threatening to license the coffee mart to trade tea may derail the reform train.

It would be inappropriate for the ministry to mix tea trading with coffee business because of just one plank of the efforts: Automation. While automation is important, it should not be rushed to the extent of interfering with the auctions of both commodities.

There is a need to be sure that the coffee mart has the capacity to handle the two crops without making a bad case of manual trading worse by adding a trading layer that the NCE cannot support.

We ask the ministry to midwife the delivery of the tea reforms through close consultations and timelines that will guarantee farmers and the entire economy the much needed gains from the tea sector.

This is not the time for missteps after years of woes for the farmer who took to the streets to ensure the tea Bill is passed.