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New rules set to outlaw ‘mama mboga’ business

Thousands of vendors who sell farm produce at kiosks and residential areas are set to lose incomes as the agricultural sector regulator moves to restrict sale of food items to markets set up by counties or national government.

Under the regulations proposed by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority (AFFA) to guide the implementation of Crops Act 2013, “all food crop produce shall be offered for sale only at designated markets.”

If approved by sector players and gazetted by the Agriculture secretary, the new regulations are set to upset the deeply entrenched ‘mama mboga’ street vendor culture preferred for their convenience by most households.

These kiosk and estate vendors usually prepare much of their produce, for example peeling potatoes and chopping vegetables, ensuring that customers leave with ready-to-cook food items.

Under the proposed laws, any person found selling food items outside the designated markets will face a Sh500,000 fine or imprisonment for a period of one year.

“The AFFA shall appoint qualified persons as inspectors to carry out inspections of all food crops produce and products,” the draft regulations state.

At every market place, vendors will be expected to provide proof to inspectors that food crops on sale were harvested at maturity or as per the market requirements.

The sellers must also convince inspectors that food items on display were sorted, graded, processed, packaged, labelled, transported, and stored to standards specified by AFFA.

OBTAIN LICENCES

“All food crops produce and products dealers shall display and use a weighing scale that has been properly calibrated, serviced, inspected”.

Under the regulations, traders must obtain licences from AFFA to grow, transport, store, process or trade in agricultural produce.

Importers and exporters of agricultural produce must be registered by the sector regulator and operate strictly as specified in their licensing conditions.

The rules require counties, working in collaboration with the AFFA, to issue a movement permit to enable trans-shipment of food crops across the country.

Such licences, the draft rules state, can be revoked in cases where the agency feels the holder has not complied with food safety standards and traceability.

The regulations outlaw operating a food crops warehouse without a valid warehousing licence issued by the sector regulator. They, however, promises relief to farmers currently grappling with multiple levies to get their goods from farm to market.

The draft regulation seeks to restrict charges on commodities to the county of production.

This means unlike the current case where every county imposes charges (cess) on products in transit, only the county where the farms are located will demand such taxes.

This story first appeared in the Business Daily