Tea farmers are asking the government to release findings of a Tea Task Force it constituted in 2007 to investigate the tea industry.
In a statement, the Secretary General of the Kenya Union of Small Scale Tea organisation (KUSSTO) Mr. George Kinyua said over the years successive ministers of agriculture had failed to table and implement recommendations of the task force thereby impoverishing farmers.
The statement says unless the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary releases the task force report and makes it public so that the government can implement it, smallholder tea farmers will call a national tea boycott starting on December 1, 2018.
Mr. Kinyua claims that the task force that was chaired by Dr. Richard Leakey pointed out individuals who were responsible for theft and mismanagement of tea farmers’ money and made recommendations that the government could take to ease farmers’ suffering.
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The KUSSTO official recalls that earlier in 2015, after a serious outcry by small holder tea farmers, the government had set up a task force similar to Dr. Leakey’s to investigate the Kenya Tea Development Agency KTDA and other organisations involved in the tea industry.
Mr. Kinyua claims that the then Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mr. William Bett in collusion with the KTDA sat on the task force’s report and refused to make it public.
“To date, the current cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Mr. Mwangi Kiunjuri has not made the report public. The question the tea farmers are asking is why did the government spend tax payers’ money for the taskforces knowing very well that their recommendations would not be implemented,” the statement said.
Mr. Kinyua said small scale tea farmers feel they have been cheated by the government, the ministry of agriculture and the tea directorate which is the regulator and they have decided to take steps to govern their crop.
He recommends that apart from tabling and implementing the report, the government should also take steps to revert the Kenya Tea Development Agency to Kenya Tea Development Authority, remove the entire agency’s officials from sitting at the tea factory’s board meetings and to let tea factory companies operate independently of the KTDA.
The government should also reduce the number of factory directors from six to three and remove the gender director as she does not represent any interest at the factories.