Nairobi — Weight falsification and theft is no longer concern for tea farmers who, for two years now, have enjoyed the use of smart card which automatically records the weight of the commodity thus eliminating human error.
During a tour of the Kangaita tea factory in Kirinyaga county, Capital FM Business witnessed an efficient process at the tea buying centre where farmers seamlessly delivered their produce before being taken to the factory.
Introduced in 2019, the card provides growers with a secure way of storing data, it contains the name of the farmer, the grower’s number and the centre where one delivers their produce.
Upon arrival at the farm, the clerk inspects to check the quality before connecting it to the factory’s electronic weighing system.
All farmers thereafter produce their cards which are connected to the weighing scale to capture and store data before it is issued back to the farmer through a printed receipt.
Peter Macharia Kinyua, a farmer and chairman of the buying centre told Capital Business that farmers no longer worry about weight falsification caused by human error, an issue that previously led to losses for the majority of the farmers.
“Before the introduction of the smart card, we had an old weighing scale which caused problems for farmers, one would come and mention their number to the clerk and should he/she get the wrong number, a farmer may lose the tea to another farmer,” he said.
Tea Diversification takes root
In a separate interview with Capital FM, Mary Karani, an agriculturalist who has farmed for 17 years explained how diversification has enabled her to stay afloat, especially during the low season when tea produce is low.
“During the low season and mid-month when payments have not been disbursed, earnings from other crops like coffee and/or horticulture products like avocado and macadamia can help a farmer to get extra earnings,” she said even as she urged other tea farmers to adopt diversification.
Karani called on farmers to be more involved in all the nitty gritties of farm management including how to properly pluck the tea.
Rhoda Riungu -, the unit’s manager at the factory said the management has embarked on a sensitization program encouraging farmers to embrace animal farming and kitchen gardens in order to stay afloat.
Tea farming challenges
While Riungu underscored the progress made in tea farming, she said the factory still battles with high electricity tariffs and high labour costs.
“Kenya Power tariffs and high cost of labour are among our serious challenges, climate change is also a concern and sometimes we are not able to meet targets of daily production due to weather,” she said.
Besides being the second oldest KTDA managed factory, the factory is the only one producing speciality tea.
“We have special orders, white tips, silver tips and crown teas, orders come from European countries and we are trying to make it common to local consumers,” she added.
Having been opened in1964, the Kangaita factory has a 15 million capacity and manages 8,000 farmers.