A row has emerged among players in the tea industry over the rampant hawking of the produce in Nyamira and neighbouring counties. Six factories in Nyamira are the worst hit by the illegal business and are now running under capacity. Sang'anyi KTDA factory chairman Stephen Nyakeriga claims that the area's tea sector has been infiltrated by traders operating in the guise of out-growers.
Nyakeriga said the traders buy quality leaves and sell them to factories in Kericho. "Our factories are running under capacity. We lost more than five million kilogrammes of tea leaves through hawking in the past one year. There is need for urgent measures to stop the illegal business," Nyakeriga said.
Speaking at Ikonge Market at the weekend, Nyakeriga faulted the Kenya Tea Board for its laxity in curbing the illegal trade. He said KTB allows out-growers to directly sell to multinational companies. "The hawkers buy the produce from the farmers at as little as Sh25 per kilo which is paid directly while KTDA pays Sh14 at end month and will soon give Sh34 per kilo as end year bonus," he added.
"The hawkers are exploiting the farmers." He said KTDA has introduced electronic weighing machines, fleets of trucks to curb the trade. Nyamira Tea Out-growers Association chairman, Thomas Makori, asked the government to protect them from hawkers. He said KTDA is harassing their workers since their vehicles do not appear distinct from one another.
"Our members followed the right procedures to delink themselves from KTDA so as to sell their crop directly to multi-nationals so they should stop harassing us," he said. However, there is little or no difference between out-growers and hawkers because majority of them send youths to buy tea from small scale farmers contrary to the law.
Public Works minister Chris Obure raised similar concerns over tea hawking when he opened the South Nyanza Agricultural Show in Kisii on July. Obure said brokers from multinational tea companies are reaping from ignorant small scale tea growers in the region who sale them their green tea at throw away prices.
"There is need for KTDA and the tea board to reign on hawking of green tea to safe the farmers from exploitation," Obure said He said that wide spread practice remains a major challenge because the farmers had resorted to hawking the crop at a loss thus increasing poverty levels.