Tea farmers in talks over management of Sh25 million

Tea farmers pluck their tea leaves at Tetu in Nyeri County on June 6,2017.Tea farmers are slowly recovering from prolonged dry spell that hit the region since last year. [Photo:Kibata Kihu/standard]

Directors of six tea factories were yesterday holed up in a meeting with the county officials on how to manage Sh25 million collected from the abolished ‘ad valorem levy’ for road maintenance.

The directors want the factories to manage the funds with the county government only playing an oversight role. But the devolved unit officials want a bigger say in how the money is used.

The directors were drawn from tea growing regions on the slopes of Mt Kenya and Nyambene Hills. The county was represented by officials drawn from the departments of Agriculture, Roads and Infrastructure and Finance.

“Tea sector governance is very well structured. Every coin that comes from the farmer is stringently audited first by our internal auditors and then by external auditors,” said Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) director for Meru zone, Paul Ringera.

The factory directors are pushing to be allowed to manage the funds with each factory getting 100 per cent of its contribution while the county government would watch over road maintenance projects being undertaken.

“We have the technical capacity and knowledge about the specific infrastructure needs of each factory in our catchment. The county government could help us with oversight as we would not want to duplicate work where they already have planned upgrades,” said Mr Ringera.

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The director added that the area factories had specific needs and that the money should not all go to gravelling as proposed by some county government officials. “Some tea roads need culverts and others storm water management systems. It is the factories that best know their needs,” he added.

The funds already sent to the county government are from the factories’ contribution to the ‘ad varolem levy’ on tea produce that was abolished by the Jubilee government in its first years as it was found to be an unnecessary burden on the farmers and for making local produce noncompetitive at the Mombasa Tea Auction.

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