Local miraa farmers have received a major shot in the arm with the start of exports of the produce to Israel, helping to cushion against loss of key European markets three years ago.
Miraa traders have started exporting the produce to Tel Aviv, opening up a new market for Kenyan farmers after the stimulant was banned in other markets like Britain and the Netherlands.
The exports to Israel come after a year-long stalemate that saw Kenyan-grown khat seized and destroyed at the country’s airport for failing to meet set requirements.
, a year after they received the approval to export the crop to Israel.
Kenya currently exports khat to Puntland in Somalia, Somaliland, Mozambique and Angola.
Through Israeli-based importer Teffcom Dasa, Kenya received a five-year permit in late May 2018 to export unlimited khat to Israel.
Miraa from Kenya however failed to reach the Israeli market until recently when the farmers were able to meet the stringent licensing and documentation requirements.
The permit from Israel’s Plant Protection and Inspection Services signed by the Director Abed Gera stated that the crop originating from Kenya had to adhere to various Israeli plant import regulations including having a phytosanitary certificate, which confirms the origin of the plant material.
Farmers have had to work closely with the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) to meet the stringent food safety requirements.
"The consignment will arrive in closed containers, and, packaging should be un-used and a non-organic material," said Gera in the permit which also stated that exporters needed "to declare in the phytosanitary certificate whether parent plants were inspected during active growth and found to be free of virus diseases and plant parasitic nematodes."
Nyambene Miraa Traders Association Chairman Kimathi Munjuri said the farmers had many shipments intercepted at the Ben Gurion Airport before the break-through to smooth shipping on July 8.
"It has not been an event, rather a process which is continuing," said Mr Munjuri.
The interception of shipments was resolved when Igembe North Member of Parliament Maoka Maore held discussions with Israeli officials.
"On meeting Ben Gurion Airport officials we were able to know the reasons why miraa was not being allowed into Israel and most of the issues were about the right documentation and especially around the right permits and licencing.
"From that informed perspective we were able to help the farmers get the right certification from Kephis and Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organisation (Kalro) to help them sell miraa to Israel," said Mr Maore.
Farmers have in the past two weeks exported about 400 kilograms every week, said Mr Munjuri, with the volumes expected to grow to about 200 tonnes in weekly exports to Israel as farmers embrace the new market.
Ethiopia remains one of the key khat exporters into the Israel market.
Israel is one of the prime miraa markets owing to the rising intake of khat juice, especially among party-goers, mostly the Yemen immigrants.