Murang’a County – In Murang’a county, a key tea-growing region in Kenya, rampant hawking of green leaf has resulted in some Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) allied factories operating below their capacity. This issue was highlighted during the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Gatunguru tea factory in Mathioya Sub- County.
According to Kenya News Agency, chairman of the Gatunguru tea factory, there has been a noticeable drop in the quantity of green leaf delivered for processing. He reported that during the financial year ending June 30, 2023, the factory received 18.119 million kilos of green leaf, a decrease from the 19.48 million kilos delivered in the previous year. Kaguma attributed this decline partly to some farmers selling their produce to private manufacturers, which contravenes their agreement with the KTDA.
The chairman also noted that harsh climatic conditions, particularly prolonged dry weather, contributed to the reduction in tea production. However, he expressed optimism for the current year, citing favorable climatic conditions, including heavy rains, which are expected to boost production.
To counteract the challenges faced, the factory has installed an automated tea withering machine aimed at reducing production costs. “This installation is anticipated to lower production costs and, consequently, increase farmers’ earnings,” Kaguma explained.
He further urged farmers to adhere to their agreements and deliver their produce to the factory. In a bid to enhance farmers’ earnings, the factory is also planning to install a line for producing orthodox tea products. “Orthodox tea has a higher income potential compared to the CTC tea we currently produce,” Kaguma added.
Chege Kirundi, a Board Member for zone 3, called for legal action against the practice of hawking green leaf. He urged the newly reinstated Tea Board of Kenya to enforce strict regulations on the production and marketing of tea. Kirundi emphasized that private companies involved in promoting hawking should face restrictions or denial of operating licenses.
Additionally, Kirundi revealed plans for the distribution of excess power produced at the Mitumi hydroelectric power station, owned by four factories in zone 3, to other factories in the southern part of Murang’a county. “This initiative will help reduce production costs and benefit more tea factories in the region,” he said.
The issues raised at the AGM reflect the ongoing challenges in Kenya’s tea industry and the need for stringent measures to ensure the sustainability and profitability of tea farming in Murang’a and other key tea-producing regions.