KTDA raises tea farmers' monthly pay by Sh1 per kilo, mulls mechanised tea plucking

A worker picks tea in Kericho.
A worker picks tea in Kericho. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Tea farmers will receive Sh16 per kilo of tea delivered to factories monthly, Kenya Tea Development Agency chairman Peter Kanyago has said.

This means the agency will increase farmers pay with a shilling  from the current Sh15 monthly advance payment.

The new payment mode will be implemented by the beginning of March.

The KTDA boss said the tea giant is considering changing its payment module to suit farmers more, coming in the face of stiff competition by private processing plants that have cut its market share from 60 to 56 per cent.

Independent factories

Independent factories, he noted have recorded a growth of 6 per cent from 40 per cent to 46 per cent in the 2017/2018 financial year.

“Small scale farmers’ production under KTDA stood at 54 per cent countrywide while that from other players like the multinational tea companies accounted for greater production,” said Mr Kanyago.

He further stated that the board is deliberating on a mode of payment that will be more appealing to farmers to discourage them from selling off their tea to private factories and hawkers who pose a threat to the tea sector.

At the same time, he said that farmers will receive Sh5 mini-bonus for produce delivered to their factories between July and December.

Mr Kanyago said the payment will be effected by the end of April.

"The standard amount of Sh5 is because of an overproduction of tea that has resulted to reduced prices at the auction that have gone down by 30 per cent," he said.

Mr Kanyago said in the Rift Valley, tea production stands at 30 per cent while in Central Kenya it's between 15 and 30 per cent.

"At the Mombasa tea auction, prices have dipped by about 27 per cent and this has pushed the farmers earnings by about 30 per cent," noted Mr Kanyago.

Tea pluckers' pay

The chairman also cautioned tea pluckers against increasing the plucking charges so that the agency does not resort to mechanised tea picking.

Mr Kanyago said his organisation has been experimenting with the mechanised plucking system and have found that its viable adding that large plantations could be mechanising shearing of tea from July 1.

Currently, a tea plucker gets between Sh12-13 pay for every kilo of tea plucked leaving the farmer with a mere Sh2 for every kilo of green leaf profit meaning farmers lose the bulk of their earnings to tea pickers.

"We will not allow the oppression of farmers by tea pluckers through their continued agitation for a higher pay.

"If this happens this time round, we will have no option but to introduce machines in tea farming,"he said.