Trader prepares his miraa for sale at Kongowea Market in Mombasa County on October 19, 2021.  [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

Disillusioned for the last 10 years after the loss of the UK and Somalia markets, Miraa farmers from Meru are now looking towards the Middle East.

The farmers who raked billions of shillings from the UK and Somalia, the two biggest markets for the stimulant crop, were shocked when the UK banned it after its Government classified it as a Class C drug in 2014.

Somalia banned Miraa due to soured diplomatic relations and trade issues, but that has since been settled and even though exports have resumed, Miraa farmers are still not happy because of low volumes accessing Somalia's market.

Miraa farmers, traders, and Meru leaders now say they want to vigorously search for additional markets after learning harsh lessons in over-dependence on UK and Somalia.

Leaders from the Miraa growing region of Igembe in Meru maintain that there are many potential miraa markets that remain unexplored.

It is in view that the Nyambene Miraa Farmers and Traders Association (NYAMITA) through its Chairman Kimathi Munjuri expected to pitch camp in Tel-Aviv, from September 5-6 this year.

Mr Munjuri said they will participate in the Agro Mashov Agricultural Fair in the Israel capital, an exhibition to showcase various export products.

According to Agriculture and Food Authority acting Director General Willis Audi, Israel is an important export destination for Kenyan agricultural products.

“The main export products to Israel for a long time have been mainly flowers, coffee, and tea, but recently, there has been an opening for other agricultural exports. These include miraa, pyrethrum, and Bixa (herb) amongst other agricultural products,” Mr Audi said.

Former Igembe North MP Maore Maoka visited Israel and among other official duties assessed its potential for miraa, which is grown by up to 90 percent of families in Igembe region and is now spreading to other areas in Meru.

Mr Maoka said consumers of miraa in Israel get their supplies from elsewhere but it remains a massive potential for Kenyan miraa.

“They consume mainly from Ethiopian. The market is substantial. The challenge is flight. Ethiopian Airways is not keen to carry Kenyan products,” said Maoka.

He said there was a market for Kenyans who had customers for the product, and a carrier to fly miraa cargo to Israel.

Munjuri said they plan to take Miraa to the trade exhibition and have hopes to secure deals that will benefit farmers. 

“We plan to exhibit the various brands of fresh Miraa that we have of nyeusi and nyeupe, Kangeta, Kisa, Alele, Laare, Griid and SP. Further, we will exhibit our value-added miraa, that is, dried miraa, miraa infusions and miraa juice,” said Munjuri.

He said since miraa is also a cultural crop to the Meru community, they will also showcase miraa packed for betrothal, or for formal dowry negotiations.

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