Kericho Governor Prof Paul Chepkwony earlier this month led governors from tea growing areas in opposing a proposal by the County Government of Mombasa to impose a new levy of Sh32 on every pack of tea going through the Mombasa tea Auction.
In a press conference at the Council of Governors headquarters in Nairobi on February 9, Prof Chepkwony said he would reach out to his Mombasa colleague Ali Hassan Joho over the issue.
“Tea farmers are already overtaxed as it is now and it would be grossly unfair to burden tea farmers with yet another levy. We will engage Governor Joho to discuss this issue through the Council of Governors,” said Prof Chepkwony.
The Kericho Governor was accompanied by his Bomet counterpart Dr Joyce Laboso, who agreed with the sentiments and expressed concern that even though tea was one of the biggest earners of foreign exchange in the country, tea farmers were not benefitting from it.
“We need to relook at the sector and streamline the operations of the tea sector to ensure that tea farmers can benefit from the cash crop they grow. I agree with Prof Chepkwony that it can no longer be business as usual,” said Dr Laboso. This was not the first time for Prof Chepkwony to step out strongly to protect tea farmers from exploitation.
The Kericho County boss has been a long term defender of the rights of tea farmers and even filed a case in court to challenge the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) over what he termed as the double taxation of farmers.
In his constitutional petition, which is being heard by a three-judge bench, Prof Chepkwony asked the court to order that tea farmers in the western rift be reimbursed Sh87B which they had overpaid in taxes.
The case is still ongoing and the governor is hopeful that he will win the case so that the lives of tea farmers can change for the better as they will earn more from their tea farms.