Tea growers differ with workers on mechanization

Kenya Tea Growers Association (KTGA) has defended the mechanization of tea estates under the association maintaining it’s the most efficient way to operate large tea farms.

The move comes even as more workers fear job losses as machines takeover.

KTGA chief executive officer Apollo Kiarie said there had been misconception of the mechanization drive adding it in no way means the loss of jobs.

Mr Kiarie said other tea growing countries that compete with Kenya have turned to mechanization to be more efficient while keeping operating costs down.

“What we do is that if there is natural attrition (in staff numbers) and we want to improve our efficiency, you have to improve the way you do your business,” Mr Kiarie said.

Tea mechanization has been a contentious issue with the workers union accusing multinational tea farmers of mischief.

Mr Kiarie pointed out that if the pushed to the wall, the tea growers would have no choice but to re jig the terms it offers workers to sustain efficiency.

“All we are saying is that if it becomes difficult to operate within the current system in terms of wage adjustments every two years without commensurate productivity from the workers, then we may be forced to go towards efficiency through mechanization,” he said.

KTGA reached an agreement with the workers union to set the target for each tea workers at 33 kilograms a day to be paid.

Tea workers last year staged a near three week strike pushing for higher pay which KTGA estimates cost them Sh1 billion.