Miraa task force blames taxes for slowing down trade in crop

Every time Meru miraa (khat) farmers ferry the produce to Somalia, there is no doubt at the back of their minds that they are flying into another intricate web of taxes.

And every so often, farmers have boycotted the trade with Kenya’s northern neighbour to protest the string of levies that begin with airport tax all the way to the consumer. Well, there is not much they can do to change the laws of a sovereign country.

The same difficult business environment also persists at home, a presidential task force on the crop, has found. The team says miraa is the most taxed crop in Kenya and its commercial production has suffered due to overtaxing and frequent harassment of traders by security agencies.

“We did a simulation on a pick-up. Assuming it takes 20 trips or 20 days of travel out of 360 days, the owner will have been compelled to pay Sh1,000 in Maua, Sh7,000 in Kongea plus other money on the way totalling to Sh1.6 million a year,” said task force chairman Geoffrey Nchooro M’mwenda.

“If you convert this amount into a tax you will realise that a miraa farmer is the most taxed person.”

Mr Nchooro says the task force found out that law enforcement officers are not making life easier for the traders either through levies.

“Immediately after loading onto the pick-ups and lorries from Maili Tatu and Kangeta, harassment by the law enforcement officers starts all the way to Mombasa,” he says.

The report recommends that the government should sensitise the State agencies on the status of miraa and legitimacy of trade in the produce. It also calls on the miraa traders associations to educate their members on the need to trade in licensed premises and to adhere to county government laws.

Presenting the 110-page report to Meru County Assembly speaker Joseph Kaberia, Mr Nchooro said the Sh1 billion that the government set aside would be used in registering farmers, implementation of the report and establishment of a fund to finance cultivation of the crop.

Other projects proposed include a miraa research institute and dissemination of information and knowledge on the crop.

The team also presented its report to President Uhuru Kenyatta early last month.

Mr Nchooro said registration of miraa farmers follows findings by the team that many people did not know farm owners because land adjudication was incomplete in some parts of Meru and Tharaka Nithi counties.

Source:- Daily Nation

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