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Meru farmers protest Governor Nassir's levy on miraa



The decision by Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir to increase the levy on miraa and muguka has rattled farmers and traders in Meru county who are now asking the national government, and Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza, to intervene.

Nassir maintained that the Sh8,000 levy for a lorry-load of the two products entering the coastal city will remain in force.

But miraa farmers and traders have said the levy was "way too high."

The governor also announced plans to close shops selling miraa and muguka, saying that the products should be separated from general commodity shops.

Governor Mwangaza said miraa was a legal crop planted and consumed everywhere and sustains large populations hence farmers need support in marketing.

Mwangaza said she had spoken to Nassir about the levy and other regulations.

“In Igembe miraa is grown in schools and proceeds to educate children, it is sold near churches and is a dowry item. As governor I have talked with the Mombasa governor intending to identify any legal restrictions, for us to find solutions,” she said.

She asked MPs to identify any legal gaps that were compromising trade in miraa.

Nyambene Miraa Growers and Traders Cooperative Union chairman Moses Lichoro accused Mombasa County of crippling Miraa business.

“Mombasa County has adopted a very punitive position against miraa and its levies are unaffordable and exploitative. We are seeing a situation where the national government is contributing to the shrinking of miraa markets because it is quiet when our counties call miraa a drug and impose unaffordable levies,” Mr Lichoro said. 

Nyambene Miraa Farmers and Traders Association chairman Kimathi Munjuri said the situation has further been complicated by the fact that the lorries delivering miraa to Malindi and Lamu pass through Mombasa.

“Mombasa is the hub where transporters drop and then proceed to other counties so they will have paid the local levy. Still, the other counties of Lamu and Kilifi want their share of levies. We fear it will spill of the trend into our northeastern counties and even internationally,” he said.

Meru miraa exporter Dr James Mithika said: "We are very disappointed with what the Mombasa assembly and leadership are proposing. They have totally discriminated against miraa which is a scheduled crop. It is the only crop which is charged such high fees."

He asked counties not to enact laws that prejudice the economy of other regions.

"Miraa is what drives the Meru economy and they are passing a law that aims at killing the economy of Meru," Mithika said.

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