Farmers blow as Holland bans miraa (Khat) from Kenya
BY SOLOMON KIRIMI - Miraa farmers, traders and consumers have expressed anger with Kenyan authorities for failing to lobby the Dutch government to reverse a decision to ban it despite a one year window before the effective date. The ban was effected as scheduled on January 5.
Traders and farmers of the stimulant in Meru, where it is the main source of income, say they are worried that the Netherlands' ban could spread to other markets, adversely affecting them.
“The first step towards salvaging the crop is having it classified under the cash crop category in the Agricultural Act and remove it from the horticultural category,” said Florence Kajuju, a miraa trader from Tigania East.
According to Miraa exporter Dan Aritho from Nyambene, the region is expected to generate more than 60 per cent of the Meru County income, 80 per cent of this generated by miraa business.
Netherlands has formerly stopped importation of Miraa from Kenya. The Dutch government issued traders operating from Uithoorn village near Schipol Airport in Amsterdam with letters ordering them to cease stocking and sale of the herb with immediate effect.
The letter signed by state secretary for heath, welfare and sports, M. J. van Rijn was distributed to Miraa traders on Friday last week.
Miraa has been classified under the Opium Act, the same category as bhang, and has been banned from Holland according to the letter. Bhang is however smoked in Holland legally in coffee shops.
In Kenya, KLM Airline has canceled its dealing with traders who have been reserving space for miraa cargo, shipped four times a week to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and distributed to Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Norway.
Around 843 tonnes of miraa , worth a minimum of 14 million euros (Sh1.6 billion) passed through Schiphol in 2010, up from 714 tonnes in 2009 and 693 tonnes in 2008.
Nyambene Miraa Traders Association spokesman Kimathi Munjuri says there has been no official communication from the Netherlands government since January last year, when the move to ban the stimulant was passed in the Hague.
“We are very frustrated because there have not been any attempts by both Kenyan and Netherlands government to resolve the issue,” said Munjuri.
Efforts by the association to seek answers from Kenya's ministry of foreign affairs prompted the officials to write a formal request to the Dutch embassy in Nairobi for information on whether indeed miraa trade had been banned.
The ban makes 16 the number of European Union countries that have banned miraa alongside Norway in the Nordics.
An independent report commissioned by the Dutch government has cited noise, littering and groups of men who roam the streets chewing the herb are perceived as threatening.
Kenya miraa traders are worried that the United Kingdom, the second largest miraa market in EU will follow suit. In 2005, the UK Home Office review conducted by the advisory council on the misuse of drugs concluded that long term use of miraa has effects of class C drugs, same as bhang and steroids.
“We are lobbying our foreign affairs ministry to seek an official communication from their Dutch counterparts before we think of our next course of action,” said Munjuri.
Netherlands is home to a large population for Somali community which forms the bulk of miraa consumers.
Source: The Star
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