KENYA- The Tea Board of Kenya (TBK) has announced a new set of rules that the regulator hopes will solve the perennial issue of illegal green leaf trade that has been affecting the sector.
As per the new regulations, a tea factory shall ensure that green leaf transporters do not collect, transport, or deliver green leaf from growers other than those registered with the factory.
Transportation of tea using vehicles of a capacity of less than three tonnes has also been banned under the new regulations to allow air circulation and prevent overloading and spillage of leaf.
The regulator has also made it mandatory for all tea vehicles to be labelled with the name of the factory records of leaf collected and maintained.
The records will show the list of growers assigned to the green leaf transporter, cumulative collection, routed, and collection centres.
“The Tea Board of Kenya shall take legal action against any tea factory and/or green leaf transporter who fails to comply with the above conditions in line with the provisions of the Tea Act, 2020,” it said.
Section 21(8) of the Act provides that a tea factory shall only buy green leaf from its registered growers and further bars anyone from selling tea unless he or she is registered with a factory.
Despite the law existing, Illegal tea buying has worsened in the recent past as more private factories set up in tea-producing regions often without enough contracted farmers to meet their daily demands.
The Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) has for years complained of tea hawking, arguing that farmers are exploited by private factories including multinationals.
The agency manages over 54 factories owned by about 600,000 smallholder tea farmers spread across 16 tea-growing counties in Kenya.
Eastern Produce fights to keep its tea estate
Meanwhile, Eastern Produce Kenya (EPK), a tea estate associated with British multinational Camellia Plc, has claimed that a letter used by the Kimasas Farmers’ Co-operative Society to claim part of the tea estate was doctored.
The letter in question formed the basis for the claim by the Society to demand 550 acres of the tea estate, which was granted by the National Land Commission (NLC) in a gazette notice on March 1, 2019.
With new evidence coming to light, the tea company is now seeking a review of a decision by the Environment and Land Court dismissing its case in April in a fight with a farmers’ society in Nandi County over 550 acres of its estate.
The ELC has subsequently summoned the farmer’s society to appear before it “within 21 days, from the date of service”.