The agriculture regulator has announced plans to start controlling miraa prices at the farm gate, signalling a boost to farmers whose earnings have been squeezed by middlemen.
Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) director-general Alfred Busolo said the agency will tomorrow (Saturday) open an office in Maua that will, among other things, monitor prices of the stimulant.
Agriculture secretary Willy Bett will open the Meru office.
This is the latest attempt to make miraa a mainstream cash crop, years after a majority of the European Union countries, US and Canada banned the use of the stimulant after reclassifying it as a controlled drug — denying it a huge market.
“We now want to set a recommended minimum price for miraa just as we have done with sugarcane. You will realise the price that farmers are getting for their crop could not be commensurate with the quantities bought from them,” said Mr Busolo.
Like in the sugar sector, dealers offering prices below the set prices risk jail and penalties — which will be announced through a legal notice.
Miraa was included in the list of cash crops to be recognised officially last year in May, giving the national government the mandate of creating regulations including guidelines on marketing.
Mr Busolo said they are also working on plans to have miraa exported through Isiolo airport other than having to come all the way to Wilson Airport, to avoid cases of fatalities associated with the speeding vehicles ferrying this perishable commodity.
The Maua office will be headed by a manager who will be responsible for the day- to- day welfare of the farmers in the region.
The AFA is currently scouting for new market for miraa farmers after key buyers banned the export of the stimulant to their country, affecting the earnings of hundreds of farmers who rely on the crop for income.
In 2012, the Netherlands, which was the biggest foreign market for miraa banned its sale prompting outcry from Kenyan traders.
The UK was also a major market for Kenya’s stimulant before banning it. Kenya used to export about 20 tonnes of miraa weekly valued at an estimated Sh1.4 million.
The local market consumes more than 60 tonnes weekly.
The presidential taskforce on miraa, which was appointed on June last year by President Uhuru Kenyatta, was expected to give a report by October last year but had its term was extended to enable them complete its work.
In consultation with farmers, traders and relevant stakeholders, the team is supposed to suggest ways to ensure recovery of lost markets and search for new markets for miraa produce.
Other tasks of the taskforce include research on miraa agronomy, variety improvement, product development and value addition.