Kenya: Munya, Barchok Lock Horns Over Export of Tea to Iran

A war of words has erupted between Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Peter Munya and Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok over the sale of tea to Iran.

A few hours after Mr Munya termed as “fake” the contractual agreement with buyers in Iran which saw Bomet ship 84 tons of tea three weeks ago, Dr Barchok fired back saying the CS was talking out of ignorance.

Dr Barchok told a press conference in his office on Wednesday evening that Mr Munya had failed farmers and was keen on bringing the tea sector to its knees by coming up with policies that were not practical and in the long run will mess up the industry.

Dr Barchok refuted claims by Mr Munya that the tea from Bomet was not shipped as claimed and that the deal was not sanctioned by the national government due to trade barriers the country was facing.

However, he confirmed that the tea that he flagged off with the Iranian Ambassador to Kenya Jafar Barmaki was from a private tea factory that he did not name.

“It was impossible to export tea from Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) managed factories because of the leadership wrangles with new directors having taken over while the previous ones have moved to court to challenge the move,” said Dr Barchok confirming Mr Munya’s position that the Agency was not involved in the deal despite being a major industry player.

On Wednesday, Mr Munya tore into the export deal saying there was no evidence to show that the produce has left the country for the destined market.

“The engagement between Bomet and Iran on tea export was fake. The purposed made tea has not left the country. It has not reached Mombasa for shipping. Who are the exporters if KTDA was not involved?” Wondered Mr Munya while answering questions from journalists in Nairobi.

Pressure has been piling up on the county government to release the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding for the sale, who the exporters are, the buying price and modes of payments as Iran is barred from trading with most countries due to the embargo in place.

“To demonstrate that the tea was indeed sold, I will be travelling to Iran with farmers’ representatives and county officials to receive the produce as it docks on July 28,” said Dr Barchok.

He confirmed that indeed the national government had not sanctioned the engagement this the decision to engage the buyers directly.

“We presented a memorandum of understanding to the ministry of foreign Affairs that has sat on it for the last eight months with no feedback. The document is gathering dust at the department yet farmers are looking for better markets for their produce,” said Dr Barchok.