The Kericho devolved government is demanding 30 per cent of tea revenue just the way Turkana County benefits from oil.
Governor Paul Chepkwony said Kericho is the biggest producer of export tea — Kenya’s highest revenue earner — but locals are yet to realise any gains from the “green gold”.
“Whereas Turkana County gets 30 per cent of the revenue from petroleum, the government gets billions of dollars from our tea but we receive nothing,” Prof Chepkwony said at Kericho Green Stadium during the graduation of county enforcement officers on Friday.
“We have driven this country’s economy since colonial times.”
The ceremony was attended by Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso, Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot, his Bomet counterpart Christopher Andrew Lagat, Kericho Woman Representative Florence Koskey, Ainamoi MP Sylvanus Maritim and a host of ward representatives.
LARGEST TEA EXPORTER
Thousands of smallholder farmers under the Kenya Tea Development Agency and multinationals have made the country the world’s largest exporter of black tea. The annual produce averages 450 million kilogrammes.
Kenya’s tea earnings in 2016 stood at Sh120 billion, with the total amount that went through the auction in Mombasa hitting 480 million kilos.
It was the second highest in five years, according to East African Tea Trade Association.
The Kenya Bureau of Statistics says Kericho, Bomet and Nandi counties produce 46 per cent of the country’s tea.
Black tea contributes a significant 26 per cent of total export earnings.
It therefore means that the three counties contribute two per cent of Kenya’s GDP from just one crop.
GREEN LEAF PROCESS
But there are disparities in earnings, comparing what farmers get with the figures multinationals fetch.
A kilo of processed Kenyan tea, for instance, fetches up to £30 (Sh3,800) in the European retail market yet a farmer under KTDA earns as little as Sh23 per kilo of green leaf. Two and a half kilos of green leaf process a kilogramme of black tea.
One argument leading to the dissatisfaction is that multinationals have made great profits for years, with little impact on locals.
Feeder roads in tea producing regions have remained poor for long, especially after the scrapping of agricultural levies four years ago.
“If concerned authorities were serious, all the roads in tea zones would be tarmacked,” Mr Patrick Siele, a small scale tea farmer, said.
The high position of tea in the chart of revenue earners hides a myriad of structural problems and disparities ailing the industry.
If Kericho gets its way, it will join Turkana and Narok as some of the devolved units which have fought to gain from resources within their boundaries.
In Narok, Governor Samuel Tunai won a bid to draw 19 per cent of the annual revenue from Maasai Mara National Game Reserve, was effected about three years ago.