Tea farmers are among the country’s unsung heroes who grow a crop that is a major foreign exchange earner. However, a chunk of the returns from their produce has always ended up in the pockets of cartels that have controlled the sub-sector for years.
It is, therefore, encouraging to hear some good news for the people who break their backs to produce the quality tea that is cherished in the international markets.
The Senate has just given the tea farmer an early Christmas and New Year gift by passing the Tea Bill to usher in the much-awaited reforms in industry.
They will be eagerly waiting for President Uhuru Kenyatta to assent to the Bill. They deserve a just reward for their hard work and no one is more alive to this than the President himself.
It has been a long journey that started in June last year, culminating in the overwhelming support in the Senate for tea reforms.
The vote in the Senate has opened the door for the revival of the Tea Board of Kenya and the adoption of new pro-farmer regulations to govern the multibillion-shilling industry. All the 33 senators present during the special sitting have signalled to the cartels that have been fleecing farmers that their time is up.
This may not be such good news for the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), but it has in recent years also undergone changes, gradually ceding its control over the crop to the farmers themselves. Once the Bill is signed into law, proceeds from the sale of the crop will be paid within 14 days, while factories will pay 50 per cent of the sales to the farmers.
Also making a comeback is the Tea Research Foundation, which used to play a pivotal role in the industry.
Reforms that will put money into the farmers’ pockets are needed to revitalise growth in this vital industry.