Vihiga County is working on strategies to woo new farmers into tea farming and expand current production of the cash crop.
Governor Moses Akaranga said that his administration would ensure collections from the only factory in the county was done on time.
“My government is aware of the challenges in the tea industry, especially when it comes to late collection of the farmers’ tea leaves at the buying centres. We are going to take an active role to ensure that farmers are not disadvantaged in any way,” Mr Akaranga told the members of county assembly (MCAs) on Monday.
“To increase the capacity, my government has instructed the department of agriculture to make arrangements and reach out to farmers in the county with a view of increasing the number of tea bushes,” the governor added.
Mudete Tea Factory managers have also said they would supply farmers with subsidised fertiliser on credit.
“We also supply our farmers with subsidised fertiliser on loan. They repay at Sh1.50 per kilogramme of tea leaves supplied to the factory,” said unit manager Peter Munialo, when he announced that the factory paid farmers Sh800 million bonus last year.
He added that the tea processor did not have enough trucks.
“We have 72 centres, 140 collection points with several other small centres. Unfortunately, we only have 10 lorries which have to rotate through all the points spread out in Vihiga and Kakamega counties,” he said.
The only industry in the populous Vihiga County currently operates below capacity at 40 per cent, occasioned by refusal by most of the farmers to supply raw materials to the factory.
Mr Akaranga said that his administration was working towards increasing the factory’s production.
The plant, which serves tea farmers in Vihiga and Kakamega counties, faces stiff competition from George Williamson Tea Factory in Nandi County.
The challenges could further deepen in the near future as Kakamega County plans to set up a factory to process tea produced in the region.
Last year, the factory received 14 million kilogrammes of tea leaves from farmers with Sabatia supplying six million kilogrammes. Other major collection centres are Ikolomani, which supplied one million kilogrammes, Shinyalu (two million), Vihiga (0.4 million), Hamisi (four million) and Emuhaya (0.6 million).
The Business Daily established that some tea farmers in Sabatia, the factory’s main raw material suppliers, had opted to sell the produce to George Williamson Tea Factory.