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Avocado bill not sweet enough for ward rep

NEWS
By Boniface Gikandi | March 11th 2020
By Boniface Gikandi | March 11th 2020
NEWS

An avocado tree.

The Murang'a County Assembly has recommended the withdrawal of the contentious County Avocado Production and Processing Bill, 2020.

Members of the Agriculture committee wants it returned to the Executive for redrafting.

MCAs said it needs to capture views of all players in the avocado value chain.

The committee chairperson Charles Kahoro observed that two constituencies failed to conduct public participation on the bill.

The bill has proposed tough regulations to help spur the avocado sub-sector, which include farmers getting a licence to cut avocado trees.

The farmers must indicate on the licence application form reasons for cutting a tree, and the age of the tree.

Also, avocado exporters, transporters, cold rooms operators among other players in the sub-sector, must be registered and licenced. 

Transporters must indicate the source of the produce and its destination.

The bill has created a rift between governor Mwangi wa Iria and a section of MCAs. Farmers in Kandara and Gatanga constituencies have also voiced their opposition to it. 

 “The bill should be withdrawn to ensure views from players in the sub-sector, among them the Ministry of Agriculture and the Agriculture Food Authority (AFA), are captured,” said Mr Kahoro.

During a public participation exercise on Monday in Kandara, three MCAs Simon Wamwea, Moses Murigi and Kibe wa Sally were confronted by farmers who were opposed to the new avocado regulations.

Among other proposals the law wants mooted, is the creation of a directorate that will be in charge of the issuance of licences. 

The bill has also proposed harvesting seasons to be monitored, with harvesting dates being observed for various ecological zones.

Murang’a will be divided into three ecological zones: upper, middle and lower to facilitate harvesting of mature avocado.

These measures, Mr Iria said, will protect rogue farmers from harvesting immature avocado fruits.

Culprits who will flout the regulations will pay a fine of Sh2 million, or serve a jail term not exceeding two years, or both.

Murang’a is a leading producer of avocado. Farmers earned Sh5 billion last year from the crop according to the county government.

In the past two years, the governor said his administration has distributed free avocado seedlings estimated at 1.6 million.

He said his interest is to guard farmers from exploitation by cartels following projections that avocado production will rake in Sh20 billion annually in the next four years.

The bill has also called for the establishment of a surveillance unit that will ensure the regulations are followed to the letter.

Those in charge of surveillance must not be connected to the avocado sub-sector as farmers or as traders.

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