President Uhuru Kenyatta has announced that the government will allocate Sh1 billion to miraa (khat) farmers to cushion them from shocks of international ban of the commodity.
The decision follows pressure from Meru leaders who demanded action after the crop was banned in the UK and the Netherlands two years ago.
The President spoke at State House, Nairobi on Friday when he signed into law a Bill that categorises miraa as a cash crop. The amendments done through the Mediated Version of the Miscellaneous Amendment Bill No 2 the Crops Act means the national government can establish mechanisms for promotion, production, distribution and marketing of Miraa as a cash crop.
The money may be available from the next financial year. President Kenyatta said he instructed the Cabinet to include the allocation for supporting cash crops in budgetary allocations during discussions in Naivasha. The historical assent, witnessed by Deputy President William Ruto and political leadership from Meru, gives legal backing for farmers and traders to grow, harvest and sell miraa produce in the country without any hindrances.
President Kenyatta said the funds will be availed through the Ministry of Agriculture. He directed Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett to meet with leaders from Meru to discuss and agree on the mode of disbursement.
The President regretted the tribulations which farmers are undergoing since the ban and assured them of government support. President Kenyatta also announced the formation of a new task force to look into issues affecting miraa farming.
Speaking at the same function, the Deputy President said the Jubilee government is commitment to resolving development challenges in the Meru region. Mr Ruto urged county governments to ensure prudent use of public funds.