Relief for traders as miraa exports to Somalia resume

Kenya has officially resumed exporting miraa (also known as khat) to Somalia market with the first consignment of the cargo taking off on Sunday, July 24, 2022.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya announced that the cargo flight left for Mogadishu, raising hopes of restoring one of its miraa major markets.

"Our commitment as government to support miraa farmers and all other sectors in accessing local and international market opportunities remains steadfast," Munya said.

Mogadishu initially banned air cargo in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but diplomatic tensions between Kenya and Somalia have kept the ban in place even as other Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted.

The election of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Somalia raised hopes of a thaw in ties with Nairobi, and on June 10, Munya announced that Mogadishu had agreed to resume air shipments of khat.

Munya said the Ministry was in talks with the miraa sector stakeholders and the airlines and the talks were in the final stages, if not complete.

"We expect that the licenses are ready, because the negotiations were at the final stages and I believe by now an agreement has been reached," said Munya.

He added: "We want farmers to be incorporated in this plan and the prices fair for them. Challenges that have been there before are that farmers at the end do not get what they deserve for the produce, while at the market the prices are high, especially the export market."

Inasmuch as the business part is already on track Munya said there are new regulations that need to be put in place that the Ministry is working on. By Friday last week, traders were still operating with their old licenses as new ones had not been issued yet.

"No one has a license yet; we have been engaging the stakeholders in the miraa sector to agree on how to conduct the business. There are new regulations, and we want everybody to have new licenses that go hand in hand with the new regulations," said Munya.

Munya noted that the new regulations are taking time due to public participation, he however added that Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) is ready to give conditional licenses.

"The new regulations require us to have a committee to set the price, but we have not managed to form the committee because it involves a lot of things, like public participation. However, we want the business to start and give them conditional licenses which compels them to follow all the required regulations," said Munya.

Somalia has been a crucial export market for Kenyan khat traders ever since the Netherlands and Britain imposed a ban in 2012 and 2014 respectively, joining the ranks of other Western nations which classify it as a drug.

Prior to the ban, about a third of the 150 tonnes of miraa shipped daily went to Somalia, representing a loss of earnings of up to Sh16 million for some traders per shipment.

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