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Miraa farmers boycott harvesting in protest of 'cartel' controlling trade

Monday April 8, 2024

Hundreds of Miraa farmers from Meru County have decried a cartel they claim has been exploiting them.

The farmers protested at Maili Tatu in Igembe yesterday accusing the national government and agencies of neglecting the Miraa sector.

They announced a seven-day Miraa harvesting boycott in protest against the alleged existence of a cartel determining Miraa price and dedicating how many tons of the crop has to be exported.

Through their spokesman James Mithika, they said while the four main Miraa growing zones (Igembe North, Igembe Central, Igembe South, Tigania East) could produce 100 tons a day, only 10 or 12 tons were being exported currently.

Angry farmers said the cartel had a stranglehold on Miraa exports to Somalia, the only remaining major market after the crop was banned from the UK and other parts of Europe.

"A select few airlines are carrying Miraa consignments, the government should license more transporters because there is no law that dictates that Miraa should only go to Somalia by air. We want to transport it by road and sea,” Mithika said.

The farmers singled out Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi who they felt had not done enough to rescue them as Miraa prices dropped amid declining exports.

They said when President William Ruto took over and the cartels were still controlling Miraa trade, a kilogram of Miraa was selling at between Sh1,800 and Sh2,000.

“Now it is trading at Sh200-Sh300 a kilo, a drop that has never happened in our history,” the irate farmers lamented.

Lawi Muthomi, a representative of Miraa traders said only six operators currently had access to the Somalia market and asked the government to allow more.

“Initially, there were many Miraa transporters and exporters to Somalia but currently only six exporters are allowed to access the Somalia market,” Muthomi said.

They said the airlines charge Sh584.13 (4.5 USD) per kilo of miraa which they opined was expensive.

They claimed that because the national carrier, Kenya Airways does not carry Miraa, the other airlines had the freedom to demand exorbitant fees to ferry the commodity.

“This has exposed the Miraa sector to extortion and strengthening the cartel at airports that has caused the greatest challenge in Miraa business,” Muthomi said.

He added: “Miraa farmers have suffered huge losses due to the production costs and it has greatly affected families and the economy in the miraa growing region."


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