Miraa farmers say crop discriminated against
CENTRAL | By Phares Mutembei and Muriithi Mugo | July 31st 2021
Miraa farmers in Embu and Meru counties have said they are being discriminated against in budgetary allocations and other government interventions.
Speaking to a delegation of the National Assembly Agriculture Committee visiting the two regions, farmers of both miraa and muguka asked Parliament to treat the crops as different.
Miraa is grown mainly in Meru County while muguka is grown in Embu County.
MPs Catherine Waruguru (Laikipia), Joyce Kamene (Machakos), Majombo Kalasinga (Kabuchai) and John Paul Mwirigi (Igembe South) held interactive sessions with various stakeholders when they visited on a fact-finding mission.
The legislators visited miraa growing zones following a petition tabled in Parliament by Igembe South MP, Mwirigi.
In the petition, Mwirigi wanted Parliament to investigate how a 2016 Sh1 billion budgetary allocation by President Uhuru Kenyatta to cushion farmers against aftershocks of a European ban was used.
He also wanted to know how miraa funds allocated to the Agriculture Ministry in subsequent allocations were utilised.
In his petition, Mwirigi also complained against over-taxation of miraa by some counties.
He said while miraa vehicles from Maua pay Sh1,000 cess to Meru County, other counties had slapped levies of between Sh10,000 and Sh40,000 per vehicle passing through them.
Lack of security for transporters, farm inputs, markets and adequate research on the crop, and alleged over-taxation by some counties, were some of the grievances tabled before the legislators.
Farmers said the government had not done enough to re-open the Somalia market which was closed two years ago, noting it was the only remaining major one for miraa, which drives the local economy.
Nyambene Miraa Farmers and Traders coordinator Miriti Ngozi said the association wants miraa and muguka to be declared separate crops, because they face different challenges along the value chain.
Ngozi, in a call backed by Nyamita chair Kimathi Munjuri, said miraa and muguka needed to be gazetted as separate crops, to enhance planning for both.
But Agriculture and Food Authority’s Nicodemus Mwanga said the Ministry recognised both as cash crops of the same variety.
He also assured that a miraa research institute will be built at Naathu in Igembe North.
“Research institute has been allocated 50 acres, we are in the process of setting it up. It is only that we have not been allocated funds,” he said.
In a meeting with Muguka stakeholders in Embu a day earlier, promised to table an amendment Bill to the Crop Act 2016 to identify muguka as a cash crop on its own to avoid discrimination in government programmes.
Nominated MP Cecily Mbarire called for equitable distribution of miraa funds, saying Embu produces a higher potent khat.
“Let us get a share of what we produce as it is unfair for produce from Embu to be taxed, whereas not receiving an equitable share of allocation,” she said, adding that muguka should have a legal framework similar to that of tea and coffee.
Cyrus Ngeranwa, a farmer, raised concern that in some counties, muguka was treated as a drug, citing the recent ban of its sale in Kitui.
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