A miraa (khat) traders' lobby in Kenya has raised concern over the reliability of the Somalia market, even as the current diplomatic tiff between the two countries saw exports reduce on Monday morning.
Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita) spokesman Kimathi Munjuri said only four flights ferried miraa to Somalia on Monday morning, compared with about 20 that operate on normal days.
He attributed the decline to the uncertainty on the Kenya-Somalia dispute over maritime boundary.
“Exporters are very careful not to deliver their khat to Somalia when there is a dispute. The air operators also avoid the business because of the uncertainty.
"The Somali and Kenyan governments should assure traders that the diplomatic differences would not affect business,” Mr Munjuri said.
Other than the effects of the diplomatic row, he said, Mogadishu was also gravitating towards Ethiopian khat, whose taxation was lower than Kenya's.
He added that despite this being a low harvest season, the price per bag of miraa had fallen from Sh150,000 to Sh80,000 -- which was too low at a time when demand is higher than supply.
“During the low harvest season, the price of a bag goes for between Sh180,000 to Sh200,000 but currently, it is barely Sh100,000. We are now considering selling on cash terms due to the uncertainty,” he said.
He said the Kenyan exporters have also lost a big chunk of Puntland market due to prohibitive taxation regime introduced by the new government.
“The khat from Ethiopia is enjoying lower taxes in Mogadishu while Puntland slapped a 5USD (Sh500) tax per kilo on miraa which cannot be transferred to the farmer.
"It is time the miraa taskforce report implementation technical team prioritised looking for new markets,” the Nyamita spokesman said.
He said the high tax by Puntland has seen a decline in exports to Garowe, Bosaso and Galkayo.
The neighbouring Somaliland has almost been inaccessible to Kenyan miraa traders due to heavy taxation.
The concerns over dwindling miraa market come even as anti-khat crusaders intensify a campaign for ban of the stimulant in Somalia.
Last month, QaadDiid Foundation, an anti-khat organisation, erected billboards in Mogadishu and Garowe, with messages calling for khat ban.
Nyamita termed the billboards, which were later vandalised, as perpetuating falsehoods.