Utilization of machines to reduce costs of tea plucking for farmers

KEY POINTS

  • KTDA has been rolling out new machines for plucking tea from plantations. 
  • Since the introduction of machines, tea plantations are now paying an average of Sh5 in plucking costs, according to Tea Board of Kenya (TBK) Technical Officer James Marete.
  • The machines can pluck up to 400 kilograms a day compared to 45 kilograms by human labor.
  • The farmers noticed a decline in health-related issues arising from long hours working in the tea plantations.
  • Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya allowed the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) to start the rollout of tea plucking machines throughout all zones in early March.
  • What effects will the machines have on existing occupations in the ecosystem?

Following the implementation of picking equipment, tea farms have saved up to Sh10 per kilo in plucking the fruit. Previously,

the farms have been paying laborers up to Sh15 per kilo for each kilo of tea picked, making it the single highest component of production costs.

Since the introduction of machines, tea plantations are now paying an average of Sh5 in plucking costs, according to Tea Board of Kenya (TBK) Technical Officer James Marete.

Mr. Marete stated, “Machines have helped a lot in cutting the cost of production, with a kilo going for as cheap as Sh5.”

After the high court threw out a decade-old case between unions and multinational firms challenging the use of plucking gadgets, various estates, particularly multinationals and individual farmers, have embraced these machines in their plantations.

According to Apollo Kiarii, chief executive officer of the Kenya Tea Growers Association, an umbrella organization that includes multinational enterprises, the adoption of robots has reduced labor costs and increased earnings for growers.

“When it comes to tea production costs, the plucking of the produce is the most important factor. The equipment will save time by reducing labor costs, leaving farmers with more money in their pockets,” Mr. Kiarii explained.

Mr. Kiarii claims that the machines can harvest 400 kilograms of tea every day, compared to 45 kilograms for laborers. 

In March, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya authorized the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) to implement tea plucking machines in all zones at the beginning of March.

Mr. Munya explained that robots increase efficiency and lower health risks for the farmers. These health risks emanate from working long hours in the plantations. The new machines will ensure that farmers spend less time in the fields. 

Machines and robots have a reputation for rendering people jobless. It will be interesting to see how this new technology will impact farmers in the coming months since the robots do almost ten times the work people will do in a day. 

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