Munya hits back at Kiraitu over miraa rules, waives levies

Peter Munya (left) and Kiraitu Murungi.

A war of words has erupted between Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya and Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi over new miraa regulations published in a special Kenya Gazette notice on June 9.

Mr Munya told off Mr Murungi over his opposition to the rules, accusing him of politicising the matter.

On Monday, Mr Murungi vowed to seek legal redress and block implementation of the rules that he said would impede efforts to revive the sector that is reeling from the effects of a two-year ban on exports to Somalia, the main market.

Among other measures, the regulations impose a Sh30 levy on a kilo of miraa and related products meant for export and Sh60 for one kilo imports.

The governor argued that the levy and proposed licences would increase the cost of doing business and frustrate farmers and traders.

He also claimed the county government was not consulted and that there was no proper public participation before the rules were published, declaring the law "illegal, unconstitutional, null and void".

But speaking to residents at Kiegoi market in Igembe South, Mr Munya hit back and announced a waiver of all levies proposed in the regulations "until the sector recovers".

"Some people have taken advantage of the rules and want to play politics with them. As the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, I have ordered the removal of all proposed levies, including those on exports, until … the sector gets on its feet," he said.

"I am the one who made the law and if there is any problem, we can amend the provisions because they are not cast in stone. But if there is anybody who is aggrieved, they can go to court. Let's meet in court and square it out!"

And in a direct attack on Mr Murungi, the CS added: "Now that I have said nobody will pay any levy including on exports, the county government should also waive charges in markets so that the small trader is not burdened."

The CS said he was determined to ensure that the sector rebounds with resumption of exports to Somalia.

"On July 5 we will sign the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) that will allow flights to … Mogadishu. This will mark the beginning of the revival of miraa business,” he said.

“At the moment, we are doing the groundwork in anticipation of signing the agreement, but there are some people who want to play politics."

But Mr Murungi also accused the CS of "jumping the gun" by announcing that miraa exports had resumed even before the agreements were signed and told him "to hold his horses".

"We have had problems with the sector since exports to Somalia were banned,” Mr Murungi told journalists on Wednesday shortly after Mr Munya's address.

“Nobody should politicise matters, because what we are seeing at the Agriculture ministry is chest-thumping. They don't know for sure whether the agreements will be signed, so we should wait for that moment."

Concerning tea bonuses that farmers are supposed to be paid in July, Mr Munya said "some people" were spreading rumours that growers would be paid less than they earned last year.

He dismissed as fake bonus payment schedules that have been circulating over the past week, saying the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) had not officially announced the bonuses.

"We succeeded in uprooting cartels in the tea sector, but I have noticed they are creeping back with fake schedules to try and create despondency and anxiety among farmers. KTDA has not yet announced the bonus. We will make it public on Monday and I assure you the pay is good," he said.

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