East African Tea Traders Association (EATTA) on Thursday, May 25, warned of dire consequences after youth destroyed property in major tea estates.
In a statement, the regional body implored President William Ruto to intervene and avert the crisis, which threatened to cripple the tea sector in Bomet and Kericho counties.
The traders promoting the region's tea sector advised Ruto to act swiftly to avert the looming crisis, making the country lose close to Ksh2.5 billion fetched from tea sales.
East African Tea Traders Association (EATTA) further told the Kenya Kwanza administration to intervene to prevent the mass exodus of investors from the tea sector.
As a result of the mass exodus, thousands would be rendered jobless, especially in the tea sector and other supporting sectors taking a toll on the economy, which had started recovering from the pandemic shock.
"On average, we trade tea worth Ksh2.5 billion tea per week which means that in total, we earned the economy like last year Ksh136 billion. An effect of one week translates to almost Ksh2 billion in terms of shock," they stated.
"If this investor shuts up operations in Kenya, they will be looking for other operations, and the Mombasa tea auction will lose," they added.
The regional body lobbied President Ruto to find a solution to address the standoff between tea pickers and companies operating in the Rift Valley region.
According to the East African Tea Traders Association (EATTA), tea pickers opposed the introduction of machines by major investors in the sector. They argued that the tea-picking machines would render them jobless.
In a recent case, residents invaded two Ekaterra estates in Kericho and torched a mechanical tea-plucking machine. That brought the number of tea-plucking machines destroyed to 13.
Ekaterra multinational tea took precautionary measures by suspending operations in Bomet and Kericho counties. Kenya Tea Growers Association (KTGA) chair Silas Njibwakale confirmed that the company suspended the operations due to security concerns.
"We call upon President William Ruto to intervene in the matter of insecurity in the region, which has led to the tea company suspending operations,” stated Njibwakale.
Njibwakale added that 16,000 jobs were at risk due to the suspension of the operations.
President Ruto assigned his Deputy Rigathi Gachagua to revive the tea, coffee and milk sector. While accepting the assignment, Gachagua vowed to eliminate cartels crippling the sectors.