The buying price of tea leaves (from farmers) is low in Kisii. Elsewhere it is high. Yet we say Kenya is one nation, one people,”
- Mr Kalonzo Musyoke, Leader, Wiper Democratic Movement, at a rally in Kisii on May 17, 2017
A Nation Newsplex review of tea auction pricing and Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) payments to farmers reveals that indeed farmers from the Mt Kenya, Nyambene Hills and Abaredare Ranges areas are paid higher prices than those from Kisii and Western Highland regions.
The tea leaves are graded based on quality and condition. The highest grades are referred to as pekoe, and the lowest as fannings or dust.
Tea auction prices, which are quoted in US cents, vary from factory to factory. For instance, a May 23 analysis by Africa Tea Brokers Ltd reveals that for grade BP1, the top 37 out of 67 factories in terms of buying prices were from Mt Kenya, Nyambene Hills and Aberdare Ranges.
Factories there auctioned their tea for an average price of between $3.68 and $3.32 (Sh379- Sh342) per kilogram. Meanwhile, the bottom 29 factories auctioning grade BP1 were from Kisii, Kericho Highlands and Nandi Hills. They auctioned their tea for between $3.30 and US$3.20 (Sh340-Sh330) per kilogram.
A similar pattern was repeated for grade PF1. The top 37 factories in terms of auction prices were from Mt Kenya, Nyambene Hills and Aberdare Ranges. Their tea was auctioned for between $4.64 and $3.36 (Sh474 and Sh346).
For grade PF1, the bottom 30 factories were from Kisii, Kericho Highlands and Nandi Hills. Their tea were auctioned for between US$3.28 and US$2.90 (Sh344-Sh305) per kilogram.
The same pattern was repeated for grades PD and D1.
In the past when farmers from the western region complained of lower pay, KTDA Managing Director Lerionka Tiampati said consumers prefer tea from the Eastern region because it is of higher quality, which affects pricing and bonuses. Quality of tea leaves is affected by climate and soil type.
He also said the efficiency of factories and cost of production affect payment to farmers. But to this last point, critics ask why KTDA-owned factories do not have the same standard of production.