Kenyan tea farmers, aware of the value of their industry to the country, are accusing the management of the Kenyan Tea Development Authority of exploitation. The Kenya United Small Scale Tea Owners Association made clear during their annual meeting in Chuka, Tharaka Nithi county, that lawsuits will follow if efforts are not made to address their concerns.
The farmers are very worried about declines in the market prices for tea and say that their payments are often delayed significantly and they received no bonus this year. Between July 2013 and January 2014, prices at the Mombasa auction dropped 30%. They do not believe that they are being dealt with fairly by management. KTDA blames the price drop on an oversupply of tea.
The tea owners association is requesting a price increase from Sh14 ($0.16USD) to Sh100 ($1.15USD) per kilo of tea and would like to see more ownership turned back to the community. They are threatening to stop bringing tea to factories for processing beginning in June.
There are currently 54 KTDA-managed tea processing facilities which receive leaves from more than 560,000 small-scale farmers. Reports are that some farmers have started pulling up their tea plants seeking to grow more profitable crops. Others are threatening to sell to multinational companies like Unilever and James Finlay instead of KTDA.