‘Meagre’ bonus irks small-scale Mt Kenya tea farmers

A farmer plucking tea

A farmer plucking tea. Small-scale tea farmers in Mt Kenya have expressed frustration with the bonus pay-out of between Sh35 and Sh40 per kilo announced for their supplies.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Small-scale tea farmers in Mt Kenya have expressed frustration with the bonus pay-out of between Sh35 and Sh40 per kilo announced for their supplies.

Though the rates are an improvement on last year’s pay, farmers say that, with the implementation of the new laws in the sector, they expected at least Sh90 per kilogramme this year.

At a press briefing in Chuka Wednesday, farmers and officials from the Kenya Union of Small-scale Tea Owners (Kusto) said Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya had promised them a bonus that they had “never witnessed before”. Kusto County Secretary Njagi Kinyamu said the Sh36.20 pay per kilogramme that Weru Tea Factory announced is below their expectations.

In Meru County, farmers supplying Imenti Tea Factory are likely to get the highest pay-out at Sh41 per kilo, followed by Kinoro Tea Factory (Sh37.10) and Kionyo Tea Factory (Sh36.30).

In Central region, the rates range between Sh31 and Sh35. Last year, Weru Tea Factory parted with Sh20 per kilo and Sh23 in 2020, signalling a positive trajectory.

Munya’s promise

Mr Kinyamu said Mr Munya had promised that they would earn 50 per cent of the market price and that a kilo went for between Sh250 and Sh300 at the weekly Mombasa tea auction.

He added that the cost of production had increased, compelling farmers to take loans that they are now unable to repay.

“We expected at least Sh90 per kilo because Mr Munya had promised us 50 per cent of the market rate,” said Mr Kinyamu. Weru Tea Factory Chairman Gitari Mwoga defended the payment, urging the growers not to look at only the end-of-year bonus but also the monthly payment that has improved to Sh21 per kilo.

“We are going to pay our farmers on July 8 at the rate of Sh36.2 per kilo,” he said, adding that the target was to have an end-of-year bonus of Sh50 per kilo but the international market rate went down due to the Russia-Ukraine war. According to the Tea Board of Kenya, earnings from tea exports to Russia declined by Sh598 million in March, as volumes dropped to 686,072 from 2.6 million kilos during the same period last year.

The regulator noted that prices at the weekly Mombasa auction dropped from $2.68 in January and $2.73 per kilo in February to $2.59 in March. Russia is Kenya’s fifth-largest buyer of tea in terms of volumes.


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