Avocado bill splits county leaders down in the middle
The proposed Avocado bill by the Murang’a County Government has triggered sharp divisions between Governor Mwangi wa Iria and Senator Irungu Kang’ata.
The governor has been thrust on the receiving end with accusations that he was plotting to seize full control of the avocado sector while excluding other players, especially middlemen who have the backing of the senator.
Dubbed the Murang’a County Avocado Processing and Marketing Bill 2020, the governor says the legislation is aimed at providing guidelines for the crop production standards, processing and marketing.
He argues that if passed, the bill that is in its Second Reading, shall help streamline the sector and protect farmers who have, for a long time, been exploited by brokers.
“Brokers get to the farms and buy the fruit for as low as Sh1 and this is totally unacceptable.
We want to do away with the middlemen and get a direct market for the farmers thus maximising their profit,” said Wa Iria, who on Friday disrupted a meeting of brokers convened by Senator Kang’ata.
But the senator and the middlemen believe the bill negates the free market ideals because of its proposal to have all the buyers and traders post their contractual agreement with the county.
“The bill is Draconian. It compels farmers to seek a permit before uprooting their avocado trees. That permit is not for free.
It compels farmers to seek county permits when moving their avocado from their gardens to the market. It imposes hefty fines for violations of the law,” the Senator told People Daily.
Wa Iria has accused Kang’ata of working in cahoots with the middlemen to prevent his administration from coming up with measures to protect avocado farmers from exploitation.
Fight for space
Phillip Kamau, a middleman, claimed the bill was a well orchestrated plan by the governor to lock them out of the sector and they are not going to let it happen.
“We shall fight for our space in the sector even if it means going to court,” he said.
Kang’ata said making the farmers sign contracts with the buyers shall limit their market freedom and this might eventually lead to exploitation.
“The county government wants to create a monopoly in the avocado market and this might be counterproductive,” he said.
The Senator added that the terms set in the bill might lock out potential buyers who can even bid better prices for the fruit.
“The bill violates tenets of a free market economy by restricting the farmers to the choice of market,” he said, adding that the bill shall duplicate the role which the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) is mandated to do.