Kenya Smallholders Seek Additional Tea Board Seats

KERICHO, Kenya

Kenya tea is largely farmed on 100-acre and smaller gardens owned by smallholders. As the government begins implementing the Amended Tea Act of 2011 the nation’s 598,000 tea growers are seeking additional representation on the Tea Board of Kenya.

The request followed a workshop organized by Partners in Tea Initiative (PITI) an NGO championing the rights of tea farmers. Representatives of farms in Kiambu, Bomet and Kakamega told the news service All Africa that the smallholder sector was under-represented in the TBK and called for the issue to be addressed by Agriculture Minister Sally Kosgey.

“We feel we are sidelined yet we are a major stakeholder in the tea industry,” said Mathayo Tirita from Bomet.

Smallholders are organized under the Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA) which was established in 1964 and became a private company in 2000. KTDA operates 58 tea factories and buys tea leaves from the growers and sells fertilizer on credit. About 10 percent of Kenya’s population relies directly or indirectly on tea production. Smallholders are responsible for about 60 percent of the annual tea grown in Kenya. Tea cultivation has increased from 5,000 hectares in 1965 to 109,000 hectares in 2010 making Kenya the largest exporter of black tea in the world.

The Tea Act calls for a 16-member board with representatives of plantation producers (KTGA, NTZ and other independents); six smallholder farmers, four representing plantation tea growers and one tea trade representative (buyers, brokers, auction managers). There are two government representatives on the board, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and the Director of Agriculture – and two members appointed by the Board. The Managing Director is an ex-officio member of the Board. Under the Tea (Amendment) Act, the Board appoints its own Chairman from amongst the members of the Board representing tea producers.

The smallholders are seeking a decision before the Ministry of Agriculture publishes the starting date for the Amended Tea Act 2011.

Source: All Africa