East Africa

Miraa farmers regain access to key Somalia market

Miraa (khat).

Miraa (khat), a mild narcotic drug exported to Somalia, is sorted at Wilson Airport in Kenya's capital Nairobi. Somalia’s Federal Government has lifted the ban on the importation of miraa from Kenya. PHOTO | AFP

Summary

  • Somalia had stopped the importation of khat when international flights were suspended last year due to fear of the spread of Covid-19.
  • But, when international air travels resumed, khat importation from Kenya was still restricted and khat from Ethiopia, a slightly different variety, was allowed in the country.

Somalia has officially lifted the ban on the importation of khat from Kenya giving miraa farmers access to its Sh16 million-a-day market.

The Federal government has said traders must obtain import licences to bring the stimulant into the country.

Finance Minister, Dr Abdirahman Dualeh Beileh, made the announcement at a press conference in Mogadishu on Monday evening.

“Traders must import khat into the country by legal means,” Dr Beileh.

“I hereby declare that nobody is barred from importing khat and [it] can be brought through any entry point if proper regulations are followed,” he added.

Miraa (khat) is a brain stimulant, widely chewed in Somalia as a pastime.

Mogadishu is the single largest market that Kenya has for its miraa.

Dr Beileh urged traders to obtain import licences from the government and pay the appropriate duties.

The lifting of the ban comes amid a diplomatic stalemate between the two neighbouring countries that saw Somalia cut diplomatic ties with Kenya, accusing it of interference.

Somalia stopped the importation of khat when international flights were suspended in March last year due to fear of the spread of Covid-19. But, when international air travels resumed in August, miraa from Kenya was restricted while that from Ethiopia, a slightly different variety, was allowed in the country.

The continued restrictions were attributed to a spat between Kenya and Somalia dating as far back as 2016 when then Meru Governor Peter Munya, now Kenya’s Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, caused a stir by visiting the breakaway Somaliland and offering to push for its recognition as an independent state if it allowed miraa from Kenya into its markets.

Somalia responded by accusing Mr Munya of “attempting to break up our country.” The ban was, however, lifted following discussions at diplomatic level until restrictions over Covid-19 outbreak.

But with the ongoing border spat among other accusations between the two countries, tensions between Somalia and Kenya have increased, prompting a Djibouti-led team to be formed to mediate.

- Additional reporting by BD reporter.