Miraa (khat) exporters have shifted their focus to Nordic countries and the Middle East for new markets after the crop’s ban in traditional markets such as the UK and The Netherlands.
The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) says it is working with the farmers to scout for new buyers of the produce in Sweden, Norway and Israel, with some sellers already securing potential weekly supply deals.
The Dutch and British bans on import of the stimulant affected the earnings of hundreds of farmers — mainly in Meru — who rely on the crop for income.
The AFA said three individuals had applied for licences to export to these new markets, with two of them lining up deals to supply 10 metric tonnes a week to Sweden and Norway.
“We have received the application for licenses and we are still doing due diligence to ensure that these countries will accept miraa in their country, then after that we should be able to give out the export permits,” said Pyrethrum Directorate head Andrew Osodo, under whose docket the crop falls.
In 2013, The Netherlands, which was the then biggest foreign market for miraa banned its sale prompting outcry from Kenyan traders.
The UK was also a major market for the stimulant before banning it in June 2014. Kenya used to export about 20 metric tonnes of miraa weekly.
The remaining major miraa market is Somalia, whose unstable market occasionally affects the earnings from sales there.
Last year, Somali government banned the export of the commodity to their country for a week in what was attributed to diplomatic row between the two States.
It was estimated that traders lost about Sh500 million for the seven days cargo flights to Mogadishu were suspended.
The local market consumes more than 60 metric tonnes weekly.
Miraa was included in the list of scheduled crops last year in May, giving the national government the mandate of creating regulations that, among other things, give guidelines on its marketing.
AFA director-general Alfred Busolo said the mandate of the task force that President Uhuru Kenyatta formed mid last year to look into the issues ailing miraa industry in Kenya includes the marketing aspect.
“The task force, which will be handing its report soon will come up with clear strategy on marketing and highlight new opportunities beyond our current export destinations,” said Mr Busolo.
The task force was expected to give a report by October, but had its term extended to enable it complete its work.
In consultation with farmers, traders and relevant stakeholders, the team is supposed to suggest ways to ensure recovery of lost markets and search for new markets for miraa produce.
Other mandates of the task force include research on miraa agronomy, variety improvement, product development and value addition.