Why Murang’a avocado bill has turned into hot potato

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020 00:00 |
Avocado fruit. Photo/Courtesy

Eric Wainaina @EWainaina

The County Government of Murang’a is seeking to criminalise the growing, transportation, sale and processing of avocado fruit in the area unless farmers and dealers obtain a licence from the county government.

Those who will contravene the proposed law, which is being opposed by some leaders and avocado dealers, will have to pay a fine of Sh500,000 or serve a jail term of up to two years or both.

The Murang’a County Avocado Processing and Marketing Bill 2020, according to Governor Mwangi Wa Iria, seeks to provide guidelines for regulation of the crop production standards, processing and marketing and to provide for conditions for licensing nurseries, avocado produce dealers and farmers.

Invade market

Wa Iria argues that the Bill, which is currently in the Second reading in the County Assembly, will boost avocado prices.

“I have dedicated (myself) to protecting the Murang’a farmer from brokers and other thugs trying to invade the market.

We know that if you go to a supermarket in Europe, it will cost you not less that Sh500 to get one avocado. But brokers are buying an avocado at Sh5 from farmers. I have said No,” said Wa Iria.

The governor, who has been donating Hass avocado seedlings to local farmers, said his government will not take steps to economically empower local people only for them to be exploited by middlemen. 

Murang’a Governor Mwangi Wa Iria interacts with avocado dealers who had turned up for a meeting with Senator Irungu Kang’ata, on Friday. Photo/PD/REBECCA WANGARI

But some local leaders, including Senator Irungu Kang’ata, say the proposed law is draconian and punitive.

He has accused the governor of disrupting meetings organised by people who have different views regarding the Bill.

“Wa Iria has been misbehaving here in Murang’a. I called a meeting of my friends from Gatanga and Kandara who deal in avocados. But the governor sent goons to Jogoo (the venue of the meeting),” said Kang’ata.

Uproot tree

The senator said the proposed law, which also seeks to compel farmers to apply for registration to engage in the avocado farming, should not be allowed to pass.

“That bill is draconian. It compels farmers to seek a permit before uprooting an avocado tree.

That permit is not for free. It compels farmers to seek a permit to transport avocado from their farms to the market.

It imposes hefty fines for violation of the law,” the senator said, adding that in the long run, the law would be oppressive to farmers.

Kang’ata said that contrary to the claims that the law intends to protect farmers, it may actually lead to exploitation.

“The county government wants to create a monopoly in the avocado market and this might be counterproductive,” he said.

If passed, the law would affect crop produced, processed and marketed and or imported into and out of Murang’a. That means it would affect dealers and farmers from neighbouring Kiambu, Nyeri and Kirinyaga counties. 

Wa Iria seeks to ban transporting of avocado from outside the county unless permits are obtained from the county of origin.

More on National