Kenya has taken the fight to reclaim the lost European miraa market to the United Nations in a move aimed at safeguarding the incomes of about 150,000 Meru farmers.
Agriculture secretary Willy Bett said the government has tabled a request at the UN seeking an interpretation of the clause that European countries used to ban miraa.
Kenya also wants regulations that bar transportation of miraa as ordinary cargo reviewed.
Majority of the European Union and G8 countries, the US and Canada have banned the use of miraa after reclassifying it as a controlled drug.
Speaking in Maua town while launching the implementation of the Miraa Taskforce report recommendations, Mr Bett said the government would recover lost markets and seek new ones for the crop.
“We want to lift the standards of living for miraa farmers but this can only be done by opening more markets. The European market was lost due to misinterpretation of UN conventions. We have asked the UN to give us an interpretation of the conventions to establish whether it affects khat,” the CS said.
He said that the government had also initiated the review of aviation regulations which bar passengers from entering airports with miraa.
“I am aware that it is not possible to fly from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Eldoret with the bundle of miraa I have been given here because of the regulations. We want these regulations removed because that is neo-colonialism,” he said.
Meru’s annual miraa production is estimated at Sh5.1 billion with exports to the UK alone accounting for around 15 per cent or Sh772 million per year.
Mr Bett said the ministry was fast-tracking the establishment of a miraa development agency, a research institute and demonstration farms in efforts increase production.
“The committee is already registering farmers before we finance construction of miraa markets and establish institutions to promote the production of the crop. We assure farmers that the money allocated for the sector is intact and will be spent on beneficial programmes,” Mr Bett said.
He directed the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) and Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate to move with speed and deal with pests destroying miraa trees.
Kalro has already identified one pest as Scales which sucks sap from branches causing them to dry up.
He urged miraa farmers to join co-operatives so as to benefit from government funding.