ODM Leader Raila Odinga on Wednesday hosted a meeting with a section of his close associates from the Mt Kenya region ahead of a joint visit with President Uhuru Kenyatta to the region.
Odinga hosted the delegation at his Capitol Hill private offices, shortly after arriving from Egypt where he accompanied the Kenyan football at the African Cup of Nations (Afcon).
The delegation was led by a long-time Odinga ally in Mt Kenya region – Kamau Mweha. Odinga’s legal adviser Paul Mwangi, who also hails from the Mt Kenya region was also present.
A statement from the former Prime Minister indicated that the meeting deliberated on ways of revamping the agricultural sector – particularly tea farming that has for a long time been a backbone of the economy in the Mt Kenya region.
“I am informed that the tribulations of small-scale tea farmers, which has severely strained their relations with KTDA, is a touchy, life and death matter that nobody wants to touch. I am told it is taboo subject in media houses too".
Reforms in KTDA
"But, as a country, we are staring at a crisis that we have to confront. In recent couple of months, we have been treated to dramatic scenes and media reports of tea farmers uprooting their crops or promising to do so because the crop no longer pays,” Odinga’s statement read in part.
He further called on reforms in the sector to end the monopoly of the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), the farmers-owned entity that sells tea on behalf of growers.
“There is need for a Forensic audit on financial management of KTDA, its group of companies and all 67 KTDA managed tea factories. Currently, KTDA is not supervised or regulated like banks, insurances or cooperatives. This must be addressed.”
“Parliament needs to come up with legislation to end the KTDA monopoly. There is need to open up this sector to competition especially in small-scale sub-sector. The Ministry of Agriculture must embark on deliberate steps to remove cartels from this crop through greater transparency in the selling of tea and payment of farmers,” the ODM Leader stated further calling on the DCI to investigate possible fraud at KTDA.