Miraa processors demand law to legalise value addition of crop

Miraa products at Kitale show on October 28, 2022. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

Miraa processors want the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Act repealed, saying it is discouraging investment in the sector.

Speaking in Meru, Kevin Nthiga, who holds Bachelor's and Masters degrees in food science and technology, said the move will enhance value addition prospects of miraa.

Kevin Nthiga says he has been processing various products of miraa since 2015, including juice, energy drink, gin, whisky, beer, and jelly beans.

He, however, says he makes the products mainly for displays at trade exhibitions since trading in them is currently illegal.

"I started this work back in 2015. However, the law prohibits any value addition of miraa," he said.

He says the law stops him from obtaining a Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) standardisation mark, which is essential if he is to go commercial.

"I have a contact person who gathers the different varieties of miraa for me as per my recipe formulation. The person then sends the package through courier services. I can only work on a few kilos of miraa at a time whenever a show or exhibition comes up."

"Currently, I can comfortably make 100 litres of juice per batch with the few equipment I have got. However, this can be scaled up to take care of a bigger market," he added.

Though he has not started to do commercial production, his products have been showcased at national scientific conferences and trade exhibitions.

"I am not selling any products currently, and any production I make is either for showcasing or display purposes. The products have attracted a large audience," he said.

A trained professional brewer, Nthiga says the problem of second-generation alcohol would be reduced if value addition of miraa was made possible.

Maore Ithula, the head of Rek East Africa Ltd, based at Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute, says the firm is engaged in making value-added products such as chewing gum, toffee, fudge, pellets, infusion and pellets but they are yet to be approved by KEBS.