9 June 2014

Kenya: Tea Farmers Tell KTDA to Defer Importation of Fertiliser

More than 5,000 small scale tea farmers affiliated to the KTDA want it to suspend importation of fertilisers worth Sh3 billion until tea prices improve in international markets.

The Kenya Tea Development Agency apparently plans to ship in 65,000 tonnes of fertiliser from Romania.

Farmers are questioning the logic behind importation of fertiliser, accusing the agency of going ahead with the plan at a time when the country has an oversupply of tea, which has seen prices dip.

KTDA would recover the cost from farmers' earnings, which irks them as they will be left "with nothing" considering the current low prices. Farmers also argue that using the acidic fertilisers is doubling yields, exacerbating their woes.

William Kettienya, a tea farmer in Kericho and former superintendent with James Finlay Kenya, said farmers will not take up the fertiliser as this would only heighten economic setbacks occasioned by KTDA's failure to pay them a mini-bonus in March as usual. Full-year bonus is also expected to be much lower.

"Application of the fertilisers means more tea production when the prices at world markets were declining," Kettienya said told the Star on phone.

He said farmers would be better off switching to organic fertilisers so as to bring down the cost of production and allow the soils to rejuvenate.

The tea sector is experiencing a glut that has suppressed prices at the Mombasa Tea Auction where a few large buyers then export the teas to Egypt, Pakistan and the UK.

"We're in serious trouble. Production is up and they is an oversupply. Kapkoros Tea Factory alone has recorded 3.02 million kilos, while another has taken 2.8 million kilos," Kettienya said.

The declining tea prices have also hurt performance of tea companies listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, with some such as Sasini issuing profit warnings and posting significantly reduced profits.

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