The Tea Board of Kenya (TBK) has moved to enforce a ban on tea purchases from farmers not affiliated with processing factories as part of a fresh crackdown aimed at curbing illegal trade.
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, tea hawking thrives as many licensed private factories that have sprung up in recent years have not contracted enough farmers to meet their processing capacities.
The Tea Board has now issued tighter guidelines and warned legal action against factories that are found flouting the law.
For years, the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) has complained of tea hawking, arguing that farmers are exploited by private factories including multinationals.
“A tea factory shall ensure that its green leaf transporters do not collect, transport or deliver green leaf from growers other than those registered with the factory,” said the Tea Board.
The regulator has also banned the transportation of tea using vehicles of a capacity of less than three tonnes to allow air circulation and prevent overloading and spillage of leaf.
All tea vehicles will be labelled with the name of the factory and maintain records of leaf collected. 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.
Kenya exports tea to more than 43 countries with Pakistan being the single largest importer of the leaf from Kenya.
Tea production grew marginally by 0.86 percent in the first half of 2023 to 273.64 million kilos compared to 271.3 million kilos during the same period last year.