Somalia’s finance minister has dashed hopes of restoring miraa (khat) trade between its traders and Kenyan farmers after recanting a statement he had made, saying it had been misunderstood.
On Monday, Dr Abdirahman Dualeh Beileh, had declared that “nobody is barred from importing khat” from “any source and by any means” as long as they acquired government licences and followed proper procedures.
The remarks saw Kenyan miraa exporters and air cargo operators rush to get the requisite permits from the Federal Government of Somalia to gain access to its Sh16 million-a-day khat market.
“We have reached out to our trading partners — importers in Somalia and Kenya airline operators — to engage the specific ministries for the said permits immediately. We are waiting to see how this goes,” said Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita) chairman Kimathi Munjuri.
“The speed with which traders in Somalia and Kenya moved to seek approvals shows how high the expectations are in both countries,” he added.
Mr Munjuri, however, said they were taking a cautious approach following the news of the lifting of the ban.
“Somalia has had a turnabout before so we are taking the reports with a pinch of salt until the authorisations are issued,” he said.
On Tuesday, Dr Beileh released another statement clarifying that he meant that only khat from Ethiopia is allowed entry into Somalia.
“There has been some misinterpretation of my message regarding khat. I meant hareri (Ethiopian variety), not miraa from Kenya,” he said.
On Monday evening, the Finance minister speaking at a press conference in Mogadishu had said that khat could be “imported from any source and by any means, be it by plane, donkey and even carried by individuals.”
“Traders must import khat into the country by legal means,” he insisted.
Somalia halted the importation of khat when international flights were suspended in March last year to stop the spread of Covid-19. In August, Mogadishu allowed the resumption of flights with the exception of those carrying miraa from Kenya. However, Ethiopian khat was permitted.
Talks to lift the ban have been hampered by deteriorating relations between Kenya and Somalia that have seen Mogadishu cut diplomatic ties with Nairobi, accusing it of interference, claims it denies.