Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has promised tea sector players that he will free them from the stranglehold of cartels that have exploited farmers and contributed to low returns.
Speaking Monday during a meeting with directors from the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), he said he will constitute a team of industry representatives to lead reforms in the tea sector, with the end goal being to put more money in farmers’ pockets. This comes after President William Ruto tasked him with spearheading reforms in the tea, coffee and milk sectors that have for long been riddled with complaints of low pay.
“We are concerned about the capture of the sector by various forces which are working to the disadvantage of farmers. We want to free the sector from these forces. We have no personal interest in the sector other than the interest of local farmers," said the DP.
"The situation we have now is not pleasant. It is a vicious cycle of poor returns for our tea farmers. The tea farms look beautiful but the owners remain poor.”
Last year, the DP had said the government had been unable to fight cartels because of unnamed officials in Uhuru Kenyatta's government who had personal interests in the sector.
The cartels, said the DP, had powers to dictate operations, which in the end hurt farmers’ pockets.
“We have been unable to fight these cartels because some of those in previous governments had personal interests...but now we are in charge. They have been involved in coffee, tea and milk business. Starting January this year we are going for them,” said the DP on December 22 at a funeral service in Nyeri.
To improve production while reducing the cost, the government last year rolled out a fertiliser subsidy programme that has seen farmers buy the fertiliser at Sh3,500 down from Sh6,000.
“Our farmers have been unfairly disadvantaged. We want to lessen the burden for them. We have already subsidised fertilisers. We want them to reap good yields without overspending on their farms. We want farmers to increase their earnings and live better,” said Gachagua.
The DP also promised to look at the decisions made by the previous KTDA board that disadvantaged farmers.