The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: State Accused of Failing to Protest Miraa Ban

Miraa farmers, traders and consumers have expressed anger with Kenyan authorities for failing to lobby the Dutch government to reverse a decision to ban it despite a one year window before the effective date. The ban was affected as scheduled on January 5.

Traders and farmers of the stimulant in Meru, where it is the main source of income, say they are worried that the Netherlands' ban could spread to other markets, adversely affecting them.

"The first step towards salvaging the crop is having it classified under the cash crop category in the Agricultural Act and remove it from the horticultural category," said Florence Kajuju, a miraa trader from Tigania East.

According to Miraa exporter Dan Aritho from Nyambene, the region is expected to generate more than 60 per cent of the Meru County income, 80 per cent of this generated by miraa business.

John Micheni, a trader from Meru, said the threat posed by such bans could escalate quickly and wants the government to act before that happens.

"We have used miraa for generations and we do not see these health problems they are alleging supported the ban" said Micheni. According to the Dutch first secretary of economic development and food security based at its Nairobi embassy Melle Leenstra, Miraa will no longer be allowed on Netherlands soil even on transit.

"It has been included in Schedule II of the Opium Act, a class of soft-drugs, which means that the trade and possession of miraa is illegal," Leeenstra said in a reply to the Nyambene miraa Traders Association. "This means that shipping your produce through Amsterdam airport is no longer a legitimate marketing channel."

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