Three months to the payment of tea bonuses, Tharaka Nithi farmers have warned the directors of the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) in the region that they won’t accept anything less than Sh50 a kilo.
Through a union, the farmers have claimed that the agency has been paying them peanuts while reaping big after selling processed product.
In a notice through the Kenya Union of Small Scale Tea Owners (Kussto) secretary-general George Kinyua, they threatened to march to the directors’ homes to demand their right in better terms of payment.
Thursday in Chuka Town, Mr Kinyua told journalists that the KTDA had declined to engage the farmers union on the bonus payment deal that is expected to be signed on Monday.
He accused the directors of conspiring with the KTDA managers to lower prices that farmers are offered.
“We are warning factory directors against colluding with KTDA to exploit poor farmers by paying less than Sh50 in bonuses which are expected in about three months,” said Mr Kinyua.
The secretary-general said for a long time KTDA has exploited farmers by buying green tea at lower prices and selling the processed product at a fortune.
“KTDA buys one kilogramme of tea leaves at Sh14 from the farmers and sells it at Sh400 after processing. The disparity is causing the farmers who spend a lot of money and energy on farming to remain poor,” he said.
He further criticised the construction of four hydropower stations by KTDA in Tharaka-Nithi, Meru, Kirinyaga and Nyeri counties at a cost of Sh4.8 billion.
Selling surplus power to Kenya Power is wrong since the money will not benefit the farmers, he told the KTDA. Kussto wants the extra power to be used by farmers neighbouring the factories.
“Every factory benefiting from the power has contributed Sh150 million for construction of these hydro power stations and that money belongs to the farmers who are the shareholders and should benefit from the excess energy,” said Mr Kinyua.
The farmers are worried that the hydro-stations which are expected to cut cost of production in the factories may not change how farmers are paid.
“Imenti Tea Factory generates its own power but farmers get four shillings less than others,” he claimed.