The ban of miraa by Somalia despite Kenya government’s support for the crop points to the need for the Kenya government to start intergovernmental negotiations to save farmers from incurring heavy loses.
More than 15 cargo flights full of miraa arrive in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, every day from Kenya. According to Somali anti-khat campaigner Abukar Awale, they bring in about 12,000 bags of miraa a day, which have a total retail value of $400,000.
Miraa, also known as khat, has faced turbulent waters since it was classified as a drug leading to its ban by the Netherlands 2012. The UK followed suit in 2014 when the British Parliament approved the decision to reclassify Miraa as a Class C drug.
Unfortunately for the miraa farmers, the two countries were among major markets for miraa. Britain alone imported at least 2500tonnes annually prior to the prohibition.
The Kenya government allocated Shs1 billion shillings in the 2016/2017 budget to help cushion Miraa farmers against the subsequent effects of the international ban on the crop but as the farmers and traders have pointed out, this is not enough. And in a political meeting with Meru politician at State House, Nairobi, and President Uhuru Kenyatta said the Kenya government regarded miraa as a cash crop which qualifies the crop for the support given to all other cash crops.
The farmers and traders have expressed dissatisfaction over the move saying the bans will unimaginable economic effects as they begin counting losses with the flight cancellation.
The Somali Minister of Civil Aviation Ali Ahmed Jangali has said Somalia has decided to temporarily suspend all miraa imports to Somalia.
Miraa Cargo Operators
In a letter addressed to Miraa Cargo Operators, Mr Jangali said: “While considering special circumstances, Somali Civil Aviation and Meteorology Authority on behalf of the Federal Republic of Somalia is hereby informing all miraa cargo operators and anyone it may concern that miraa cargo flights and its operation into Somalia have been cancelled until further notice.”
The minister also said that any “violation on the Somali airspace and disregard of this notice will have consequences”.
According to Awale, a former miraa addict, miraa contributes to domestic violence and other abuses. Miraa acts as a stimulant when chewed “making people talkative but can also make people confused.”
Miraa is especially grown in Meru County where it constitutes most of the income of both the residents and the County government.