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Smugglers make a killing as honest traders suffer

By Anne Atieno | Nov 4th 2021 | 2 min read
By Anne Atieno | November 4th 2021
Government officials destroy a consignment of sugar illegally imported into the country. KRA has declared war on illegal trade. [File, Standard]

The fight against illegal trade at the Kenya-Tanzania border has intensified as authorities seek to eradicate the vice that has threatened survival of legal businesses.

Smugglers bring in goods through the porous border spots, which include Nyamaharaga, Mwisango and Mali Ngumu.

They bring in cattle, omena, soft drinks, sugar, rice, maize, alcoholic drinks, ethanol, goats and activated carbon.

Peninah Marwa, who owns a shop at the border, said she has suffered losses due to the illegal trade.

She gets soft drinks from Tanzania, which are taxed in Kenya yet her fellow traders source the commodities from illegal entry points and sell them at cheaper prices.

She sells a bottle of energy drink at Sh50, but the same product goes for as low as Sh30 from other traders. “I can stay with soft drinks for more than two months and sometimes I’m forced to sell at a lower price,” she said.

Alice Akinyi, who is a rice farmer at Lower Kuja Irrigation Scheme, said selling the commodity has not been easy.

She gets stiff competition from the Tanzanian rice, which is sold at a low price of Sh450 per 5kg bag.

“We spend a lot on inputs and when we go to sell our products in the market, we lack buyers; they run to the cheap products which have been sourced illegally,” Akinyi said.

Mary Auma, who sells rice in Migori town, also cited unfair trade as smugglers hawk similar produce at a cheaper price.

Unscrupulous police officers are also believed to be into the illegal business.

Migori County Commissioner Meru Mwangi, who chaired a committee comprising the local security team, officials from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Kenya Bureau of Standards and Anti-Counterfeit Authorities, among others, said the government is determined to root out the cartels.

In July, KRA impounded energy drinks worth Sh1.5 million in Sori, believed to have been from Tanzania. The consignment was intercepted for lack of excise stamps.

In May, KRA destroyed illicit excisable products with a market value of Sh1 billion at Stoni Athi in Kajiado County.

In August last year, KRA said it had recovered Sh8.3 million in the seizure of illegal goods which included beer, soda, juice, ethanol, cows and goats, activated carbon and alcoholic drinks from Burundi and Congo.

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