Miraa exporters serving the Mogadishu market have started a boycott on the trade citing high farm gate prices.
Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita) chairman, Kimathi Munjuri, said the traders resolved to boycott buying the twigs to force farmers to lower the prices.
According to Mr Munjuri, a 100kg sack of miraa is now selling at Sh160,000, up from at least Sh20,000 during the rainy season.
This means a 1kg bundle (bunda) of the medium quality miraa is selling at Sh1,600.
The high prices are due to low supply caused by the dry spell that started early December.
“Only traders serving other parts of Somalia shipped their commodity on Monday night.
Traders who export to Mogadishu feel that it is not sustainable to buy 100kgs at Sh160,000 because buyers cannot afford it.
He said the traders met in Eastleigh on Sunday and resolved that they would not buy miraa from farmers.
“This means about 30 tonnes of miraa has not been delivered to Mogadishu,” Mr Munjuri said.
Mr Joseph Muturia, a member of the Miraa report implementation committee, said the premium quality miraa known as ‘Mbaine’ is selling at Sh6,000 a kilo while ‘kisa’ is retailing at Sh4,000.
“I currently sell miraa locally because residents understand the quality of this type of miraa,” Mr Muturia said.
Mr Josiah Mugo, a miraa consumer, said he could no longer afford to chew daily after prices spiked from mid-December.
“A small bundle (surba) of the best quality khat is now retailing at more than Sh400 from Sh150 last month. I am considering shifting to muguka but its quality is not good. I am now chewing occasionally so as not to stretch my budget,” Mr Mugo said.
However, Nyamita termed the move by the traders as futile saying the miraa prices are determined by market forces.
“Miraa trading is highly dependent on supply and demand. At no time do farmers or suppliers meet to fix the price. The exporters have tried this before in vain. Let those who have a market for miraa, at its prevailing prices, buy and sell without undue subjection to mob attempts to fix prices,” Mr Munjuri said.
He noted that farmers are also subjected to poor prices when there is a miraa glut during the rains.
“During the rains, miraa is in plenty and traders pick it for a dime. An attempt by farmers to boycott selling at poor prices have also failed,” the Nyamita chairman said.
Nyamita now wants the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) to move in and address challenges facing the sector so as to stabilise prices.
Earlier, the lobby had faulted AFA for not operationalising an office in Maua, Meru County that was opened in November 2017.
“The fluctuations in supply [is one] of the urgent and critical issues we have been hoping the national government would address. Unfortunately AFA is yet to start operations despite opening their office in Maua,” he added.
Farmers have called on the county and national governments to allocate more funds towards irrigation projects to ensure consistent production of miraa.
In April 2017, traders boycotted selling miraa in Somalia for four days over a tax dispute with Mogadishu authorities.