Kenya: Meru Farmers Oppose Arrival of Tea Plucking Machines

Tea farmers in Meru County have opposed the introduction of plucking machines, saying the gadgets will affect the quality of green leaf and lead to reduced earnings.

A section of small scale farmers said plucking of tea using machines will reduce their earnings since the leaf would not be of the required standard and would thus rob them of the quality they have enjoyed for decades.

Payment to each factory for made tea sold at the Mombasa auction is based on quality, with those that produce top grades earning premium prices.

Currently, there are several companies that have descended in the region, carrying out demonstrations on farms on how to use the plucking machines.

Lower tea quality

Mr Gideon Mutwiri, a farmer from Imenti South, said that for years, Imenti Tea Factory has been leading in the quality of tea sold at the Mombasa auction, but is concerned that the use of machines would lower the quality.

“The machine is cost effective since one gadget does the work of about 20 people but for the small scale farmers, they will be to our disadvantage,” he said.

Meagre earnings

He said farmers with small farms where they work with their immediate families will be hardest hit because with low volumes and lower quality, their earnings will be meagre.