Miraa exports earned Kenya Sh16.5 billion in the last five years, making it the top export fresh product destined for Africa, a USAid survey shows.
The survey says the value of miraa (khat) exports has been growing at an average of 9.7 per cent annually and accounted for 54.2 per cent of the fresh produce export from Kenya to its peers in Africa.
“Miraa exports ranked fourth in terms of total cumulative volume of exports and ranked highest in terms of total cumulative value having attained close to Sh16.5 billion ($231.7 million,” said the survey that looks at intra-Africa horticulture trade. Exports of processed vegetables stood at Sh4.7 billion or 15.5 per cent of the total in the five-year period, processed fruit (Sh3.7 billion or 12.4 per cent), flowers (Sh2.5 billion or 8.3 per cent) and fresh fruit at Sh376 million or 1.2 per cent.
Exports to African countries including Uganda, Somalia, South Africa, and Egypt grossed Sh31 billion over the five-year period.
Somalia was Kenya’s main trading block, accounting for 90 per cent of the exports. Other markets include Djibouti, Mozambique, and Malawi. However, despite the growth, the billions worth of khat that leave Kenya each year have had little impact on the farmers’ standards of living, especially Meru, Kerio Valley, and Embu regions where most of the product is grown.
The bulk of proceeds from miraa ends up in the pockets of middle men made up of Kenyans and Somalis who export the product to Somalia or Britain.
The UK hosts the largest Somali community in the diaspora. The US has banned khat imports.
Studies have expressed concern over the effect of khat on the health of users. The plant which is also legal in Uganda, Djibouti and Yemen, originated in Ethiopia where it is among the largest foreign exchange earners. But its growth in Kenya has been stifled due to the fact that it is largely unregulated and controlled by cartels.
Dealers in the stimulant have asked the government to classify it a cash crop.
Presently, middle men and owners of chartered flights operating from Wilson Airport to Somalia have emerged as the biggest beneficiaries of trade in Kenyan khat. Apart from the 20 tonnes of the crop that heads to Somalia from Nairobi every week, Amsterdam consumes five tonnes, London seven, and the local community 40 tonnes.