Smallholder growers cry foul over tea price

Smallholder tea growers in Thyolo have complained over low price of tea, saying the price has been stuck at K121 per kilograms for over four years and they are not benefitting while tea estate owners are the ones making profits.

The farmers expressed their concerns on Wednesday when minister of Agriculture Hon. Lobin Lowe MP, visited Msuwazi Smallholder Tea Growers Association in the area of senior chief Maunga in the district.

The Chairperson for Msuwazi Smallholder Tea Growers Association Harrison Maulidi said they have been selling their tea to the estates at low price yet tea estates companies and other agents are enjoying profits than farmers on the ground.

“Since 2016 the price has stuck at K121 per kilograms a thing which is worrisome and a burden to a farmer. Just imagine the labor, expensive fertilizer even the tea seed itself is expensive then later somebody comes and say we will be buying your tea at K121 per kilogram. That is not fair, but because we do not have choice in terms of ready available markets for there is nowhere we can sell, we still accept such price.

“We want government to intervene so that tea price must be revised so that farmers have to enjoy their labor. We want government to consider tea fertilizer to be cheap as they have done with maize fertilizer,” said Maulidi.

In his remarks, Minister of Agriculture honorable Lobin Lowe MP, said the association’s concerns are heard and will be addressed.

“Tea is seconded by tobacco in terms of forex contribution to this country but with the way tobacco markets are doing currently, tea will be at the top as tobacco farming is seemingly going down now. As association let us liaise with organizations through office of agriculture such as Agricultural Commercialization (AGCOM) that can support in terms fertilizer, seeds and even having access to machines to process the tea on your own and sell it. In so doing, you will enjoy tea farming,” said Lowe.

Commenting on the matter, the president of national smallholder tea growers association Priswell Pendame said lack of ready tea markets is what is making tea growers to be infringed in terms of prices as they have nowhere to go.

Msuwazi Smallholder Tea Growers Association sells their tea to Satemwa tea estates and the association comprises 236 farmers out which 103 are women. In total, Thyolo district has over 18,000 tea growers.