Factories Risk Fine For Illegal Tea Buying

A tea picker in Gathehu Village, Nyeri County. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI

July 13, 2020//-Tea factories risk Sh10 million fine for buying and ferrying produce from unregistered small-scale growers in a proposed law that seeks to weed out hawking.

Amendments made to the Tea Bill of 2018 in the National Assembly introduces penalties for factories that buy the commodity from unregistered farmers or dealers.

Those in breach face a fine of Sh10 million, a 10-year jail term or both.

The penalty is expected to limit against tea hawking and theft of the crop in farms, which has ultimately hurt farmers’ earnings.

“A person commits an offence if the person manufactures tea for sale in contravention of this Act, buys, sells, offers for sale, transports or has possession of tea, which to the person’s knowledge or belief has been grown, manufactured or processed otherwise than in accordance with this Act, is from a non-registered grower or dealer of such crop,” says amendments to the Tea Bill.

“A person who commits an offence under subsection (1) shall be liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding ten million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or both.”

Tea Bill of 2018 was passed by Senate last year and is now before the National Assembly because it also affects the National government.

Theft of the tea leaves through break-ins at factories and illegal plucking on the farms are some of the biggest challenges facing the sector.

Farmers in Bomet and Kericho counties have been grappling with theft of tea at night since last year as thieves target the green leaves that are in turn sold to other factories.

Brokers have also been buying the crop from farmers on the cheap for sale to factories, depressing farmers pay.

The stiff penalties come amid growing concerns of farmer exploitation where tea growers continue to grapple with diminishing earnings due to exploitation by unscrupulous traders and factories.

Lawmakers have also directed that tea growers provide all information to the factories to weed out those who have scaled up to growing the crop on large-scale.

The proposal is meant to kick out cartels buy tea from farmers and sell it to factories, purporting it has come from their farms.

Farmers who will fail to provide updated information that includes the size of their farms risk a Sh1 million fine or two years in jail if found in breach of the requirement.

Tea sector has in recent years hit lows mainly on diminishing returns to farmers with the State targeting the giant Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) in reforms meant to increase farmers’ earnings.

President Uhuru Kenyatta earlier in the year ordered an overhaul of the giant KTDA that manages 69 tea factories — processing and selling tea on behalf of the 612,000 small-holder growers affiliated to it.

Lawmakers have also set their eyes on plantation tea farmers and imposed a Sh2 million fine or two years in jail on all growers who fail to register their factories with the yet to be established Tea Board of Kenya.

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