Miraa farmers face new market closure threat

A man holds a heap of khat locally known as Miraa in Mweiga in Nyeri County on July 3, 2013. Miraa traders could face a major loss following threats to close the Somali market. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROU
A man holds a heap of khat locally known as Miraa in Mweiga in Nyeri County on July 3, 2013. Miraa traders could face a major loss following threats to close the Somali market. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROU

Miraa traders could face a major loss following threats to close the Somali market.

Kenya Miraa Traders Association chairman David Muthuri who spoke to the Nation said the Somali market had not bought the Meru-grown stimulant for the last one week over claims of low quality.

Since a ban was imposed on the sale of the leaf in UK and the Netherlands, the largest markets, miraa farmers have felt the heat as they are yet to get new markets.

“The closure of the miraa market in Europe has led to joblessness. Businesses have gone down because money circulation is low,” Mr Muthuri said.

The chairman said the quality of miraa from Meru had gone down because farmers could no longer afford to pay for water to irrigate their plants.

“The Somali market now wants to shun our miraa for Ethiopian khat. When we were exporting miraa to Europe, farmers could afford water for irrigating their farms. It is no longer viable to buy water because there is no market. Customers have complained that the twigs are not succulent enough,” he lamented.

Mr Muthuri said that traders hoped to get new markets in South Africa, Egypt and Tanzania but the government had not shown any commitment in helping them.

He added that the crop had dried in areas like Athiru Gaiti, Nthambiro and Kabuitu where farmers produced miraa for the European market.

“The damage in the miraa growing region is big. The President will be in Meru this month and we expect him to address our concerns. We will be presenting our petition to him because we know the government has the ability to restore the European market,” Mr Muthuri said.

The UK market, he said, used to buy 60 per cent of miraa from Meru hence the ban had led to huge losses.

By DAVID MUCHUI

Source: Nation Kenya

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