Horticultural Crops Development Authority (HCDA) is giving a stern warning to the unscrupulous nut dealers who are engaging in the business without legal documents and illegally smuggling unprocessed net to export markets.
According to legal notice No. 190 gazetted by the government last December, it is a criminal I offence to export raw nuts. But the authority is however calling upon the government to make the penalties more punitive. Currently if someone is caught exporting raw nuts, they are charged Ksh10, 000 which the chairman Joseph Kibe says is far too low compared to the returns the rouge traders get in their illegal business.
Kibe says the new regulations were aimed at enhancing the contribution of the horticulture sub-sector to the gross domestic product (GDP) but if the criminals are left to continue with illegal trade of raw nuts, they will deny the economy upto Ksh92 billion. The regulations in the legal notice were as well meant to create more jobs and enhance traceability of horticultural produce as a prerequisite for trading in food at the international market.
“Kenya is known in the global market for its high quality nuts and we can’t allow a few rouge traders to continue with the illegal business as they have been doing in the past,” says Kibe. He adds that for the farmers to reap real benefits of growing nuts, they have to be protected even from some dealers who push them to harvest when the nuts are not mature. “If the sector is currently employing over 6.5 million people, we believe it can benefit much more if well regulated,” Kibe points out.
For a trader to be authorised to trade in nuts as a dealer, those buying nuts from the farmers, they are asked to register with the authority and get a license which is charged an annual fee of Ksh5, 000. But for those in export trade, they must get an export certificate from the authority on top of the license.
Since the registration of the dealers started about three months ago, the Managing Director Alfred Serem says the authority has already arranged in court two companies and a dealer for failing to comply with registration requirements and attempt to smuggle raw macadamia nuts. Companies from China but registered locally are receiving the biggest share of blame as the one leading the smuggling business. The authority is asking for concerted efforts from all government authorities in line of import and export trade to help bring sanity in the industry.