Kenyan miraa traders are cashing in on a shortage in Somaliland following disruption of the business by a conflict in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Somali regions.
Ethiopia supplies most of the khat consumed in Hargesia, Somaliland, and Djibouti but a recent ethnic conflict has cut off transport from the miraa growing areas.
In Ethiopia, khat is largely grown in the eastern regions of Dire Dawa state and Harari region which are about 200 kilometres from Hargeisa.
On Friday last week, BBC reported that dozens of people had died and at least 30,000 displaced in clashes across Ethiopia’s Oromia and Somali regions while local media said the conflict had affected business in eastern Ethiopia.
Nyambene Miraa Traders Association spokesman Kimathi Munjuri said they have been delivering 12 tonnes of khat to Hargeisa from last week.
He said they entered the market after traders and consumers in Somaliland protested over shortage of the herb that is highly prized in the region.
“Two aircraft are ferrying 12 tonnes of miraa from Nairobi. We have been kept out of the market by hefty taxes and this is why we need government intervention for constant supply. We hope the government will grab this chance to regularise the trading framework for us to continue with the supply,” Mr Munjuri said.
Miraa is a major tax earner for Somaliland and reports indicate that sales generated 20 per cent of the government’s Sh15 billion budget in 2014.
Somaliland is said to spend over Sh54 billion annually on Ethiopian miraa and the sector is a key source of employment in the unrecognized state.
Last year, former Meru governor Peter Munya visited Hargeisa to look for miraa market in a trip that turned controversial. Mr Munya said Kenyan miraa is charged 300 per cent duty while the Ethiopian variety is deducted 100 per cent duty making it impossible to compete.
“The miraa market in Somaliland is worth about Sh40 billion which the Meru farmers should share in,” the former governor said.
He had sought to persuade the government of Somaliland to remove obstacles that have hindered the export of miraa to Hargeisa.
Somaliland broke away from the Federal Republic of Somalia in 1991.
It shares borders with Djibouti to the west, Ethiopia to the south and Somalia to the east, and is yet to be recognised as a sovereign state.