Tea farmers went to the poll to elect new factory directors, with today’s results of Mount Kenya and West of Rift valley region under microscope over big difference in prices of the commodity.
The elections come at a time when the industry’s top leadership is blamed for strangling the sector on self interest and a don’t care attitude believed to have sparked serious crises in the industry.
Prices for tea have slumped to a six-year low with bonus payments of between Sh26.50 a kilo and Sh8.50 a kilo, down from a high of Sh41.20 and Sh21 in 2013.
Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) blamed the poor performance on glut in Key markets and overproduction in the country but senate committee on agriculture said there exist even bigger problems that concerns farmers.
Ogembo Tea Factory paid its farmers Sh 8.50 a kilo, while Imenti farmers emerged the happiest farmers with a high of Sh 26 a kilo.
Some farmers had last year threatened to sack top managers under KTDA the owned factories for the worst performance of the commodity over the last two decades.
Over 150,000 shareholders of the 54 tea factory companies managed by the KTDA were expected to vote for 251 candidates vying for directorship.
According to a schedule released by KTDA’s Group Company Secretary, John Kennedy Omanga, the small scale tea farmers, will elect one-third of factory company directors who retire on rotation every year.
“The candidates were identified through a rigorous verification exercise to confirm elections requirements after they submitted their respective applications,” said Omanga.
Retiring directors are subject to the nomination process according to their respective Company Articles of Association.
Shareholders elected directors based on their individual shareholding. This is the eighth year that factory directors’ elections are being held under the weighted system of voting.
Small scale tea farmers have embraced the voting by shares system because it has enhanced transparency and efficiency in the electoral process.
“The business fundamentals of this industry are solid and we have no doubt that tea will continue to play a central role in Kenya’s economy for years to come,” said Omanga.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Felix Kosgey, said government would set up a stabilization fund to cushion farmers during low periods.