Governors cry foul over Munya’s tea regulations

By Lewis Njoka
Tuesday, October 6th, 2020
CoG Agriculture Committee chairman Muthomi Njuki addresses the press yesterday after a meeting to deliberate proposed tea regulations developed by the Ministry of Agriculture. With him are his counterparts from other counties. Photo/PD/John Ochieng
In summary

Lewis Njoka @LewisNjoka

The Council of Governors (CoG) has opposed plans by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya to institute tea sector reforms, terming the move illegal and unconstitutional.

Addressing media at a Nairobi hotel yesterday, the governors called on the government to withdraw the already gazetted reforms for consultation, failure to which they will move to court.

“We note that the proposed policies, regulations and standards negate and violate the principles of devolution.

Therefore, we reject them in toto,” said Muthomi Njuki, the Chairman of CoG Agriculture Committee.

He said that an attempt by the Ministry of Agriculture to institute reforms in the tea sector violated both the Constitution and the laws put in place by the various counties since agriculture is a devolved function.

“We also note that the Ministry of Agriculture has put in place a tea reforms committee that does not have representation of County governments who are in charge of this function,” he added.

Speaking at the event, Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi, termed the new regulations as colonial, noting that while the government had injected billions into coffee, sugar, and miraa sectors, it had given nothing to the tea sector.

“These rules are re-introducing the colonial tea system, which was set out in Act 51 of 1960.

I would like to invite you to look at that colonial law and these regulations and see there are a lot of similarities,” said Murungi.

 He said the reforms were usurping the powers of the county government, terming it a coup against the county governments by the Ministry of Agriculture.

The reforms, being championed by Munya, propose that all tea produced in the country be sold via the auction process and outlaws direct sale of tea, among other proposals.

The council took issue with several sections of the proposed reforms including the ban on direct sales, increased costs of obtaining licenses, reverting the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) to a government entity, and the recentralisation of the tea sector via the tea reforms.

According to the CoG, the proposed regulations contradict the Companies Act provisions on how the tea companies conduct their affairs. 

“These regulations are an affront to the principles of devolution and practices.

The process of development of the regulations is illegal and unconstitutional as it did not involve the county governments and the agriculture committee of the Council,” Njuki said.

They called for holistic tea sector reforms, saying the proposed reforms would expose farmers to exploitation through price fixing at the tea auction as well as middlemen.

Agriculture CS, the governors recommended should immediately withdraw the Crops (Tea Industry) Regulations, 2020, and that tea marketing through direct sales be encouraged so long as the buyer price is higher than the auction sales price.

They also want the ministry to commence immediately the process of reviewing the Crops and the Agriculture and Food Authority Acts in consultation with county governments to ensure conformity with the constitution.

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