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Meru leaders ask miraa lobby group to withdraw court case

Meru leaders have asked a miraa farmers lobby group to withdraw a case they have filed against the government after a taskforce was formed to oversee the crop’s business.

Governor Peter Munya, Senator Kiraitu Murungi and MPs Mithika Linturi (Igembe South) and Joseph M’Eruaki (Igembe North) on Saturday pleaded with Kenya Miraa Farmers and Traders Association to withdraw the case before Justice George Odunga so that the taskforce can begin its work.

However, the association maintained that if communities involved in the miraa business are not involved in the taskforce’s activities, they will not withdraw the case.

Speaking at Nchiru during a meeting with elders, the politicians called for dialogue between them and the farmers to ensure the crop’s market value does not continue declining.

“We have waged a big war as far as miraa is concerned. We are asking the revered Njuri Ncheke council of elders to engage the farmers who filed this case to have it withdrawn,” Mr Linturi said.

He said legislators who lobbied for the formation of the taskforce had received a letter from the ministry inquiring on the way forward after farmers filed the suit.

MIRAA INDUSTRY

“We will now seek the council’s decision on this matter so that we can ensure that miraa is saved,” he said.

Mr Murungi lauded the government for its efforts in ensuring miraa farmers get back their livelihood after the United Kingdom, one of the largest export markets for khat, banned the commodity.

The senator said close to Sh500m would be lost if the taskforce does not begin proposing strategies that will support development of miraa industry and specifically, lobbying for recovery of the lost market.

Mr Murungi, who is also the Senate Agriculture Committee chairman, said in countries like Argentina where the crop is also grown, the government had embraced value addition which had improved farmers livelihoods.

“Some people who do not understand about the taskforce have lodged the case but we are asking them to withdraw it,” he said.

Governor Munya said the county government had asked a legal team to be enjoined in the case to represent their interests as well.

FARMERS’ INTEREST

However, Mr Mike Mutembei, an official of the KMFTA said farmers would not be coerced into withdrawing the suit.

“If they are ready to engage us, then we will dialogue and find an amicable solution on this. However, until when the farmers’ interests are represented, the case will be heard and determined by the courts,” Mr Mutembei said:

The taskforce chaired by Mr Joseph Mwereria will be expected to undertake research on miraa agronomy, variety improvement, product development and value addition.

It is also expected to develop policy and legislation on the industry in collaboration with the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority.

Last week, the European Union said it is unlikely to lift the ban on miraa.

In an interview with the Daily Nation, EU Head of Political, Press and Information section Uwe Wissenbach said the countries involved had done thorough deliberations before the ban.