Miraa traders in the country have been dealt yet another blow after the Somali government suspended all flights transporting the commodity from Kenya to Mogadishu.
Speaking in Mogadishu on Monday, Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said the trade and consumption of the stimulant had a “devastating” impact on Somalis and must be banned.
“We had a series of discussions and consultations and agreed to end the trade of the narcotic leaf,” Mr Mohamud said in June this year.
“We will first act by reducing its trade and finally put an end to it.”
His threat came to pass on Monday when the Somali Minister of Civil Aviation - Ali Ahmed Jangali - said that the country has decided to temporarily suspend all khat (miraa) imports to Somalia from Tuesday.
In a letter addressed to Miraa Cargo Operators, Mr Jangali said: “While considering special circumstances, Somali Civil Aviation and Meteorology Authority on behalf of the Federal Republic of Somalia is hereby informing all miraa cargo operators and anyone it may concern that miraa cargo flights and its operation into Somalia have been cancelled until further notice.”
The minister also said that any “violation on the Somali airspace and disregard of this notice will have consequences”.
Reacting to this move, Nyambene Miraa Traders Association expressed shock at the flights ban.
Group spokesman Kimathi Munjuri said the ban would bring the industry to its knees. He said about 12 cargo planes ferry miraa to Somalia every day.
“We saw this coming and advised the government to safeguard the market. The notice caught us by surprise because there was no warning. I don’t know what will happen to traders who have already ordered miraa to be delivered tomorrow (Tuesday),” Mr Munjuri said.
Meru Governor Peter Munya described the move by the Somali government as terrible.
DANGER TO ECONOMY
He said the Somali miraa market was bigger than the domestic market and was the only key one left after the ban in UK and the Netherlands.
Mr Munya said the national government should move with speed and convince the Somali government to rescind the move to avoid impoverishing Meru residents especially in Nyambene.
“The move, if it stands, will completely kill the Nyambene economy,” he said on telephone.
The governor had visited Somaliland two months ago where he lobbied for the trade.
The leafy plant acts as a stimulant when chewed, making people talkative but can also cause confusion.
This move will worsen the already struggling sector following a similar ban by Britain in 2014, when it became the latest nation to formally outlaw the herbal stimulant.
In 2012, Netherlands, which was the biggest foreign market for miraa banned its sale, triggering an outcry from Kenyan traders.
Additional reporting by Dickson Mwiti and David Muchui