Nyeri, Kenya: Parts of Nyeri county are experiencing a shortage of meat following the decision by slaughter houses and butchery operators to down their tools claiming they can't afford the hefty licence fees.
Hosea Githaiga, who owns the Othaya butchery in the town, said slaughter houses have to part with Sh400,000 per year, up from Sh36,000 last year, to be allowed to operate.
He says many traders from the region are up in arms with the county government over the outrageous licence fees, which they say may force them out of business.
Yesterday, a meeting convened by the Deputy Speaker Samuel Wamaathai failed to break the impasse between the traders and the county government when he insisted the new rates can't be suspended without reference to the County Assembly.
"Not even the governor has the power to overturn the new law, which was properly legislated by the Assembly," Mr Wamathai said.
The traders are also accusing the county government of failing to put up their own facilities, leaving them at the mercy of private slaughter-houses that charge exorbitantly.
Initially, the county government charged them Sh50 to slaughter a cow, but the amount has been increased to Sh100 per head.
"If one has 20 animals he will be forced to part with Sh 2,000 besides the usual payment for permit and Sh100 to obtain a rubber stamp, which went up from Sh20," says William Ihiga who operates a butchery in the town.
Joshua Kamwana, a skin and hides dealer complained they are buying a skin at Sh70 and forced to pay Sh100 per piece as levies.
Food handling licence has also increased to Sh2,000 up from Sh300 last year. "Some of the levies are aimed at killing our businesses," he says.
Mr Kamwana says they might be forced to increase the price of meat by the same margin to cushion their businesses from losses.
He says the current price of beef is Sh300 per kilogramme while goat is sold for Sh400. They may be forced to adjust these to Sh600 and Sh400 respectively.
For days, most eateries and butcheries in Nyeri have remained deserted, forcing resident to turn to fish and rabbit meat.
Bar owners who spoke to The Standard yesterday said they recorded low business over the weekend due to the biting meat shortage, considered a delicacy in the region.
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In Meru County things are not any rosier for traders, who also staged a demonstration against against the hike in license fees. They are even planning a bigger demonstration.
Mary Kagwiria, who runs a kiosk in Nkubu, Imenti South says the single business permit fees charged by the county government is unreasonable and exploitative.
"I am required to pay Sh8,000 for a permit. The business environment is very unfriendly so I am contemplating closing shop," she said.
Dennis Kiogora, who runs the County Economic Forum says the new fees will stifle development.
"Those who were paying Sh5,000 are now paying Sh12,000 while those who were paying Sh8,000 are now forced to part with Sh17,000. The county governments must explain the 320 per cent increase. As much as they want to increase revenue, they must take care not to drive people out of businesses," says Mr Kiogora.
The Meru County Finance Act 2014 imposes a fine of Sh10,000 against an individual who operates a business without a permit.
In Murang'a, charges for operating business premises were reviewed downwards following intense pressure from the traders and the general public.
Traders dealing with cereals and livestock had petitioned the county government to review the levy, saying the economy could not sustain the charges.
In Maragua town, those operating inside the market had their taxes reviewed downwards to Sh3,400 from Sh5,100. Market chairman Patrick Kinyanjui yesterday said the traders pleaded with Governor Mwangi wa Iria after presenting their case.
In Embu, the traders complained that the county government had doubled most of the fees charged for different business venture.