The Tea Board of Kenya (TBK) has threatened to cancel the licences of independent tea processing factories following an increase in tea hawking that caused the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) a loss of Ksh53 billion last year.
Following a meeting with tea directors from five counties in the Mt. Kenya region, the Board Chairman, Jacob Kamau, stated that they have observed processors, mainly farmers with large tea farms, engaging in the tea hawking business by purchasing tea leaves directly from farmers. He deemed this practice contrary to the Tea Act.
"As a board, we have realized that many of those we have licensed to process their tea have installed more lines than what we gave them, for instance, if one has a license to process one million we are finding him or her doing 15 million. This must stop to end this menace," Kamau said.
"Last year KTDA factories around the county lost tea leaves worth 53 billion we must put this to an end since it has also affected the quality of our tea at the international market," Kamau added.
According to the Tea Act, it is illegal for one to buy or sell raw tea leaves to a factory where they are not registered as a shareholder. If caught, the act stipulates heavy fines and jail terms for both the sellers and buyers.
For independent processes, especially large-scale tea farms, licenses are granted by the board based on one's production.
Kamau mentioned that, due to the menace, they have enlisted the support of security officers, as most of the hawked tea is stolen at night.
"We have realized that hawking is also causing insecurity in most tea-growing areas. Our officers are out there to make arrests since most of it is being transported by pickups by brokers of processors after night raids by thieves," Kamau said.