A brewing controversy has engulfed the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) as directors representing small-scale tea growers from 40 KTDA-managed factories in the West Rift region raised concerns over management practices, alleged conflicts of interest among senior managers, and the sale of processed tea below the government's set reserve price.

At the heart of the dispute lies accusations levelled against the Tea Board of Kenya (TBK) for what is perceived as inaction and potential conflicts of interest within its leadership.

Specifically, the spotlight is on the acting Managing Director of Chai Trading, who also holds multiple positions in KTDA's sister companies.

According to David Rono, chairman of the West of Rift KTDA directors, "Chai Trading's acting managing director is both a buyer and a seller, as general manager-KTDA Management Services and as the sales and marketing department general manager."

This conflict of interest, the directors argue, has had a detrimental effect on tea prices, particularly in the West Rift region, leading to lower prices of processed tea compared to those from other regions.

The disparity in prices between the West and East Rift regions has been a persistent issue, casting doubts on the fairness of the auction system.

The directors further expressed dismay at the absence of top managers from TBK and KTDA Management Services Limited at a recent meeting held at The Willis Hotel in Bomet town.

Despite invitations extended to shed light on the raised concerns, their non-attendance added fuel to the fire of discontent.

KTDA Management Services Limited also faced criticism for allegedly failing to ensure the production of quality tea in the factories of the West Rift region, which boasts the highest number of small-scale tea holders and contributes significantly to the country's tea production.

The dispute underscores the challenges facing the tea industry in Kenya and highlights the importance of transparent and accountable management practices to safeguard the interests of small-scale tea growers.

As the controversy simmers, stakeholders await a resolution that ensures fairness and equity in the tea market while promoting the sustainability of the industry.