Senate approves new tea regulations, sets the path for radical sector changes
The Senate has overwhelmingly voted in support of the 2018, Tea Bill approving the implementation of radical changes in the tea industry.
The approval made on Monday is expected to signal better fortunes for tea farmers across the country as the bill tightens the regulation screws in the industry.
For instance, the bill seeks to establish the Tea Board of Kenya, a regulator who is expected to crack the whip on players in the value chain with the aim of benefiting tea producers.
The passage of a bill further marks the end to a long and gruesome two years of engagement between the Senate and players in the tea industry over wholesome changes in the sector.
While terming the passage as Senate’s Christmas gift to tea farmers, Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot expects the enactment of the bill to yield in financial benefit to the producers.
“There is nothing more difficult than when Kenyans cry out to you and you are a leader. This is a win for millions of Kenyans who depend on tea farming as a business,” he said.
The formation of the Tea Board of Kenya is seen as a sanitization process to rid the sector off brokers and cartels who have continued to deny farmers their true yields from tea production.
Until now, the sector has had no true regulator with entities such as the Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA) and the East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA) operating as nearly autonomous units.
Additionally, new provisions contained in the bill will allow for the prompt payment of farmers for tea delivered in factories.
The passage of the bill is expected to also mark a big win for Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya whose attempt to bring reforms to the sector through regulations has become frustrated after opposition from players including Counties and the KTDA leadership.
The enactment of the bill now awaits assent by President Uhuru Kenyatta which could come before the close of the year.
Senators have nevertheless opposed ammendments to the bill by the National Assembly which carried more deep-rooted proposals on the sale and marketing of the tea produce.