Today, the Tea Bill moves to the Senate, after the National Assembly passed it about two weeks ago.
I wish to appeal to all Senators, from across the political divide, to come through for our farmers and our country by passing the Tea Bill.
I have had a chance to work closely with small scale tea farmers since June 2019, in a bid to address the storm that has been brewing in the sector for some time now.
In the process, I learnt that reforming the tea sector, while extremely urgent, is also full of very personal dangers to those vocal about it.
I want to thank the brave and dedicated farmers who took the risk on this touchy, life and death matter to demand the streamlining of the sector.
I also want to thank the political leaders in Parliament and outside and the professionals who listened to the cries of the farmers and took up their cause.
From Nyeri to Meru, Muranga and Kiambu; from Kakamega to Vihiga, Nandi to Kericho and Kisii, tea farmers are suffering because of cartels that have taken over the industry to reap where they have not sowed. It has been the usual tale of conflict of interest, lack of transparency, impunity that includes disobeying court orders, corruption and wrong attitude that has killed many sectors before, getting entrenched in KTDA.
Senators must help the country end those ugly dramatic scenes of tea farmers uprooting their crops or promising to do so because the crop no longer pays.
Fixing the tea sector is a critical step to putting the country on a path of economic recovery through agriculture. The Tea Bill is critical to ensuring financial security of the farmers. It could be replicated in other sectors like sugar cane and maize that are equally riddled with misfortunes for farmers.
The Bill will ensure tea auction organizers, buyers, and brokers pay farmers within 14 days from the proceeds of the sale of tea in addition to ensuring that factories pay 50 per cent of the sales to farmers, among other benefits.
We need an urgent revival of Tea Board of Kenya and the Tea Research Foundation, which used to carry out research on the sector in addition to creating efficiency and transparency in licensing of tea brokers and marketing of tea produce.
Passing the Bill would be an excellent Christmas and New Year gift to our long suffering farmers and economy. It would be the right thing to do.
H.E RAILA ODINGA, EGH
DECEMBER 21, 2020.