Prices of miraa (khat) in Meru County have sharply dropped even as a group of traders plans to move to the European Court of Justice next week to challenge a ban on the stimulant by United Kingdom.
Kenya Miraa Farmers and Traders Association chairman Dave Muthuri told the Nation that their laywer Gitobu Imanyara returned to the country on Wednesday after a visit to the UK to prepare for the case.
“Lawyer Imanyara has just returned from London where he met other lawyers including those involved in the Mau Mau case to take up our issue pro bono. We will later today (Thursday) meet Mr Imanyara to brief us on the progress made,” Mr Muthuri said by phone.
He added: “The case will be filled anytime from next week. We want the UK to lift the ban as our rights have been violated.”
Mr Muthuri said the prices of the best quality of miraa from Mburugene area that used to be exported to the UK had dropped from between Sh25,000 and Sh30,000 per bundle to between Sh6,000 and Sh7,000.
“The prices have dropped drastically. Our people are suffering. They are incurring huge losses,” Mr Muthuri said.
He said farmers who used to receive US$500 dollars after exporting a sack of the leaves were now only getting as little as US$200. The biggest beneficiaries of the ban, however, appear to be consumers in Mogadishu, Somalia, where exporters have flooded the market with khat.
Mr Muthuri said Mogadishu is now the main importer of khat after the UK ban was effected last month.
The chairman said the ban will adversely the country’s economy at large. The ban, he said, had made many people jobless especially Somalis in Eastleigh. Until last month, the UK was the biggest export market for khat.
Kenya used to export about 20 tonnes of miraa weekly valued at an estimated Sh1.4 million. The local market consumes more than 60 tonnes weekly.
In 2012, Netherlands, which was the biggest foreign market for miraa banned its sale prompting outcry from Kenyan traders. The traders have started scouting for new markets, efforts that have led to forays into Malawi and Mozambique although volumes sold in these countries are little.
In Somalia, where farmers used to export a bag of miraa for about Sh50,000, prices have plunged to as little as Sh20000 due to oversupply. Mr Muthuri said two kilograms of miraa which used to fetch US$45 in Mogadishu is now being sold at US$10.
Miraa sold locally is not of the same grade as the one for export.