KENYA – The Tea Board of Kenya (TBK) has accused factories in tea-growing areas in the country of manipulating weighing scales, ultimately affecting tea farmers’ payments, KBC has reported.

A Director of Compliance and Surveillance at TBK, Samuel Njane said they have received numerous complaints from tea farmers in almost all the 20 tea-growing counties over the manipulation of weighing machines.

The Board said farmers are claiming that clerks are colluding with certain farmers to tamper with the scales and secretly transferring a stolen number of kilograms to them to be paid in return.

These heinous acts of clerks, who are manipulating the electronic tea weighing scales, may expose some farmers to losses that could amount to millions of shillings.

While inspecting tea buying centers in Bomet County, Njane pointed out that farmers are losing between 0.5 and 1 kg in every sack of green tea leaves.

TBK, in collaboration with the department of weights and measures in Nairobi, impounded faulty tea weighing scales during an impromptu inspection of several tea-buying centers within Bomet County.

The TBK Surveillance and Compliance Manager called on the multinational tea factories, smallholder tea factories, as well as private tea factories to ensure the clerks tasked with weighing the green leaf ensure compliance with the applicable standards.

At the beginning of the year, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua promised tea sector players that he will free them from the stranglehold of cartels that have exploited farmers and contributed to low returns.

During a meeting with directors from the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), he said he will constitute a team of industry representatives to lead reforms in the tea sector, with the end goal being to put more money in farmers’ pockets.

“We are concerned about the capture of the sector by various forces, which are working to the disadvantage of farmers. We want to free the sector from these forces. We have no personal interest in the sector other than the interest of local farmers,” said Gachagua.

It came after President William Ruto tasked him with spearheading reforms in the tea, coffee, and milk sectors that have for long been riddled with complaints of low pay.

Gachagua said the administration’s sole interest was in how to improve the farmers’ fortunes so that farming does not remain a vicious cycle of poor returns and endless pain.

“We have no personal interest in the sector other than the interest of the local farmers. The situation we have now is not pleasant. It is a vicious cycle of poor returns for our tea farmers. The tea farms make beautiful scenery across the country but the owners remain poor,” he noted.

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