East Africa

Talks to open Somalia miraa market, airspace bear fruit

miraa

A miraa trader displays his crop. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya will resume exports of miraa (khat) to Somalia in two weeks following a thawing of relations that saw President Uhuru Kenyatta make his first trip to Mogadishu Thursday since the renewing of diplomatic ties between the two countries last June.

Kenya’s Agriculture Secretary Peter Munya said Mr Kenyatta brokered the deal with new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on Thursday that will see the lifting of a two-year ban.

Mr Munya said the export of the crop mainly grown in Meru County would begin in a fortnight when the two heads of State sign a formal trade agreement.

Read: Optimism grows for return of Kenya miraa to Somalia

The minister also announced that direct flights between the two neighbouring countries would resume from next Tuesday, a move that would enable the crop to be flown directly from Isiolo airport.

A bilateral air service agreement would be signed on the sidelines of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) meeting slated for Tuesday in Nairobi, he said.

Addressing the press outside Kaliati dispensary in Tigania West, Meru County, when he started a two-day regional tour to local farmers, Mr Munya said the new Somalia regime had promised improved diplomatic relations.

He said the trade talks were cemented after the Kenyan delegation, in which he was part, led by President Kenyatta, attended Mr Mohamud’s inauguration in Mogadishu Thursday.

Read: Uhuru in Somalia for Mohamud's inauguration

“We want to thank President Uhuru Kenyatta for the diplomatic negotiations he has been carrying out quietly. The ban had greatly affected the economy of Mt Kenya East and the farmers’ earnings,” he said.

Mr Munya said talks were complete and what was remaining was the signing of the agreement that will also see Somalia sell seafood and other produce to Kenya.

Somalia closed access to its market for Kenya in 2020 following a political fallout between the two countries under former President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmaajo”. The ban led to a loss of more than 50 tonnes of Kenyan khat valued at more than Ksh20 million ($171,000) a day.

Mr Munya underlined the importance of the Somalia market, saying it is lucrative and serves as the launching pad for cargo transit to the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and other countries.

In 2021, Kenya exported goods worth Sh13.45 billion to Somalia, an 18 percent increase from Sh11.39 billion in 2020 at the height of the frosty relations.

$1 = Ksh117.10