Tea factory directors in Murang’a tell politicians to keep off
The recent announcement of this year’s tea bonus payout appears to have into a political storm forcing directors of tea factories in Murang’a County to warn politicians to keep politics out of the tea sector. The leaders drawn from various tea zones in the county have said continuous politicisation of the tea industry will destroy the market for the commodity that is currently Kenya’s highest foreign exchange earner.
Last week, the Kenya Tea Development Agency announced it would be pay tea farmers 46.45 billion shillings, representing a 25.5 % drop in earnings, compared to 62.35 billion shillings paid in the 2017/2018. But this did not go down well with Murang’a county Governor Mwangi Wa Iria who moved to court to seek orders to make public the financial accounts of the KTDA.
KTDA factory directors in Murang’a have however read malice into the governor’s move. Incidentally, smallholder tea farmers in Murang’a County are set to get the lion’s share of this year’s earnings.
Tea factories in Murang’a county have earned 12.3 billion shillings from tea sales for the year ended June 2019 – the highest revenues of all the 16 tea growing counties in Kenya. This compared to 14.49 billion shillings earned in 2018, represents 17.5% drop in earnings.
This is at a time when most of tea producing countries have registered increased production while importing markets have experienced political and economic challenges. Tea factory directors in Murang’a are now calling on politicians and other interested parties not to politicize the tea business but understand the dynamics driving the tea market.
During the year, tea factories in Murang’a county processed 181 million kilograms of green leaf into 43.85 million kilos of made black tea which was sold at an average price of 2 dollars and 59 cents compared to 3 dollars and 14 cents realized the previous year, representing an 18% drop.
To cushion farmers against fluctuating tea prices, factories in Murang’a have begun diversifying into the manufacture of orthodox tea in a move to reduce reliance on black ctc tea.