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Panic as President Ruto’s government asks tea cartels to carry their own cross

CAPTION: A woman picking tea

On Monday 26th September 2022, ousted directors of the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) stormed some offices countrywide in an attempt to take back functions.

Their efforts were thwarted hours later, but employees and other staff at the building they invaded were left shocked with some needing counselling services due to threats and intimidation.

“Their mere presence was disruptive to the operations of KTDA as they repeatedly and unlawfully summoned employees from their daily routines to harangue and threaten them, and even attempted to requisition for various services such as processing of their alleged board sitting allowance,” KTDA’s statement condemning the act stated in part. 

The plan which was hatched after the change of govt from Uhuru Kenyatta to William Ruto passed under the nose of the National Intelligence Services undisturbed, but it shouldn’t have.

In a quick rebuttal, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua warned them that their action reeks of impunity and won’t be entertained anymore.

“Invading the KTDA headquarters was the height of impunity, and the government will not allow impunity. They must allow the directors who are in office to continue executing their mandate and continue instituting reforms in the tea subsector and looking for market to make sure that our tea farmers get value for money,” Gachagua said while at the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) Nairobi International Trade Fair at the Jamhuri Park in Nairobi.

The current KTDA chairman David Ichoho further dismissed the move to reoccupy office as “political intrigues which are going to destroy the sector”.

President William Ruto, through his deputy Gachagua, has emphatically and openly condemned the attack on the rule of law. 

The much-needed reforms in the previously rotten and exploitative-to-farmers’ tea sector must be let to continue.

Gachagua’s words showcase that the govt supports farmers and that the full force of the law is behind the reforms.

Rotten sector

For years, tea farmers across Kenya suffered under the former KTDA managers, through crooked pricing and open exploitation.

Of the 200 million kilograms of tea that KTDA processed annually, 60% is sold at Mombasa Tea Auction on Tuesdays all year round. The other 40% was handled through private arrangements where certain well-placed players were given wealth on a silver platter.

One of those cartels that conned farmers through a crooked, opaque and corrupt price discovery is KTDA’s marketing department through Chai Trading Limited, and Lipton.

The two entities bought about 100 million Kilogrammes of tea from KTDA annually.

Treatment of Chai Trading Limited as a non-entity of KTDA was the fraud in itself. 

Big multinationals and Chai Trading suppressed the auction prices by bidding rock bottom prices. So brokers are unable to sell them the tea below reserve prices.

Therefore, when the multinationals and Chai Trading fail to get tea at rock-bottom extortion prices, they go to Marketing Department on Wednesdays where they are offered the tea at rock-bottom prices.

Chai Trading Limited deals mostly in premium tea grown in the region known as east of Rift Valley which is Kiambu, Muranga, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Embu and Meru. 

The ousted KTDA cartel led by Kennedy Omanga who unsuccessfully tried to run for Kisii County Senator and failed has been reaping where they did not sow.

Another one is Albert Otochi; he and Omanga should be dealt with firmly as they are disruptors of good work in tea reforms initiated by the govt.

Farmers across the country uprooted their tea plantations in protests over KTDA slave-driving ways, but the two ingrates, who would not hesitate to sell their mothers for a mess of European soup didn’t care a dint. They belong to Kamiti Maximum Prison.

The same rot that is now past in the tea sector is still alive in the coffee sector.

Early this year, Coffee cartels raised Sh15 million to bribe various govt officials and judges to scuttle reforms.

Through a law firm Manyonge Wanyama & Associates LLP, coffee farmers continue to toil for nought.

READ MORE: Coffee Cartels raise Ksh15 million bribery kitty to fight coffee reforms

Reformers

Irungu Nyakera and others petitioned the govt to help sort out the mess and they became successful. The govt installed a committee headed by him.

Mr Nyakera, a former Principal Secretary (PS) and Murang’a gubernatorial candidate made proposals rooting strongly for the establishment of a Tea Fund to cushion farmers from fluctuations in the international market.

The committee had a stinging indictment on some of KTDA’s subsidiaries, especially Chai Trading Company, KTDA Management Services (KTDA-MS), Greenland Fedha, and the Sales and Marketing Department. 

“Chai Trading had no coherent market plan for its products, merely conveyancing and waiting for government assistance,” it said of the marketing department. The committee accused the management services wing of enjoying skewed management agreements that don’t hold them accountable and allowing the introduction of new products such as orthodox, purple, and Chencha tea without a clear market plan. 

The reforms bore fruits: Tea factories signed fresh management contracts with KTDA which saw earnings from their produce improve tremendously.

But the former conmen led by Kennedy Omanga and Otochi, were always plotting the downfall and waited till a new govt was in place to cause drama and chaos.

They have met resistance from President William Ruto.

In the Cabinet meeting held on 27th September 2022, DP Ruto’s regime took note of the attempts by the former Board Members of KTDA to reverse the reforms that had been made in the tea sector sub-sector and the new leadership they heralded.

The Cabinet reaffirmed that the Administration would not turn back on the reforms made by the previous administration aimed at strengthening the good governance of the tea sub-sector. 

Now they are in panic.


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