Governors oppose proposed tea sector reforms, threaten to move to court

Governors from tea growing areas have rejected new sector proposals by the Ministry of Agriculture lamenting the side-lining of the devolved units in the creation of the new rules.

At the heart of the county bosses’ displeasure is the lack of representation in the process of creating the rules which are currently under the consideration of Parliament in spite of agriculture being a devolved function.

“Therefore, the attempt by the Ministry of Agriculture to purport to implement these functions is a violation of the Constitution and the corresponding Laws developed by the County Governments to ensure smooth implementation of these functions,” noted the Council of Governors Agriculture Committee Chairman Muthomi Njuki.

The coalition of governors further slammed specific provisions in the proposed regulations including direct sales, accompanying costs, the reversion of the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) to government and the lack of wholesome public consultations.

For instance, the governors say KTDA belongs to farmers and as such cannot be reverted to government.

The counties are now seeking to carry out an audit on the tea agency to suit its purpose to the needs of over 700,000 small holder farmers.

The CoG has now prompted Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya to withdraw the Crops (Tea Industry) Regulations, 2020 and allow further consultations with county governments.

Additionally, CoG wants the threshold for direct sales to remain in the marketing of tea as long as prices fetched are higher than those recorded at the public auction in Mombasa.

The proposed tea regulations which further threaten to clip the powers of KTDA have raised criticism from a section of farmers who see them as disruptive to the tea trade.

Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi has fingered the government for what he terms as a coup on the control of the industry.

“The national government is not serious in supporting tea farmers. We have for instance seen allocations to sectors such as sugar, coffee and even miraa but nothing has been given to tea,” he said.