Miraa traders see levies, internal barriers as 'backdoor ban'

Miraa farmer

Mr Moses Lichoro explains how he does miraa farming during the interview at one of his farms in Igembe Central, Meru county.

Photo credit: Gitonga Marete I Nation Media Group

Miraa traders have complained about what they call arbitrary charges levied on the stimulant, saying this is stifling the trade.

The protest came as it emerged that a new export levy had been introduced under which each vehicle carrying miraa is charged Sh4,000 regardless of quantity.

Miraa traders were “shocked” that a new levy was being introduced each day, said Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita) chairman Kimathi Munjuri, adding that the motive was unclear and this would cut farmers’ earnings.

He said that on Monday, he had to pay Sh4,000 at the airport for 50km of khat he was processing for export.

“There seems to be a silent motive of banning the miraa trade by imposing exorbitant fees. The other day, Mombasa County started charging us Sh50,000 for a truckload of khat and now this Sh4,000 at the airport. We want the Agriculture ministry to come out clearly on this,” Mr Munjuri said.

Farmers said President William Ruto had promised during campaigns that there would be better returns from the produce but now they were being “victimised”. 

“We cannot understand why a truck of carrots, cabbages or carrots is charged Sh3,000 to access the market in Mombasa while we are overcharged by over 1,000 per cent,” Mr Munjuri said. 

“This is an internal barrier to trade on a scheduled crop recognised by the Agriculture ministry and funded by the Treasury. We will not allow this discrimination.”

Lower prices

He said farmers’ earnings are likely to shrink because traders will offer lower prices for the produce so that they can recoup their expenses.

During campaigns, former Mombasa governor Hassan Joho waived a Sh30,000 fee to sway voters in Igembe, where Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga has a huge following, but after his exit, a Sh50,000 levy in the Finance Bill took effect.

His successor, Mr Abdulswamad Nassir, ruled out reinstating the waiver, saying the executive order was issued by the former governor. But he added that his administration was willing to negotiate with traders on a less oppressive fee.

“The Sh50,000 was in the former administration's Finance Bill and it cannot be altered until we undertake public participation. Once my government tables a new bill, we will invite miraa traders and listen to their views,” Mr Nassir told the Nation by phone on Thursday.

Last week, Mr Moses Lichoro, chairman of the Miraa Growers and Traders Cooperative Union, also raised the alarm over an unexplained $4.5 (Sh540) export charge on khat.


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