Miraa traders on Monday resumed transporting the herb to Somalia through Mogadishu International airport, after a four-day boycott over a tax dispute with Somali authorities.
Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita) spokesman Kimathi Munjuri said importers had resumed the trade reluctantly as no talks had been held with government.
“Some airlines broke the resolve of the boycott and started flying to Mogadishu. Other transporters could not risk losing their customers leading to resumption of business,” Mr Munjuri said on Tuesday.
The impasse was a result of Mogadishu authorities demanding Sh103 ($3) tax per kilo of Khat despite agreeing on Sh231.75 a kilo last month. The charges apply in the Aden Adde International Airport, Mogadishu.
Late February this year, Khat traders boycotted exporting miraa to Mogadishu, Somalia after the Somali government increased the tax from Sh309 to Sh360.5 per kilo.
Trade resumed four days later after importers and government officials in Somalia and traders agreed on a tax of Sh247 (2.40USD) per kilo.
“All cargo flights had been diverted to Jowhaar airstrip about 97 kilometres away from Mogadishu. This is because the authorities in this region charge Sh154.5 per kilogramme of miraa. However, the khat may not reach the main markets of Mogadishu by road due to the standoff,” Mr Munjuri said.
However, the transporters feared their planes may be banned from the business if found using the Jowhaar airstrip.
“Traders have diverted the herb to Bosaso, Baladwein, Galkayo and other small towns across Somalia. It is impossible to transport it by road in Somalia,” he said.
Mr Munjuri said the dispute was sparked by a move by two airlines which have been seeking to control the miraa transport business.
“There are nine airlines in miraa cargo business. We have received information that officials of two carriers a week ago pushed for implementation of $50,000 (Sh5.1 million) landing licence for miraa cargo planes in Somalia. They wanted to offer bribes to take over the business. This made the government to increase the taxes,” he said.
Nyamita spokesman said the miraa revenue is controlled by Somali clan elders, merchants and top officials denying government the much needed taxes.
“Most of the levies paid in Mogadishu go to people’s pockets and this is the money the government wants to go to public coffers. The new government tax and the personal levies make it very expensive to sell khat,” Mr Munjuri said.
He said Mogadishu, the largest export market, takes in about 50 tonnes of miraa daily, valued at more than Sh100 million.
The spokesman called on the Kenyan government to initiate talks with Somalia to streamline the business.
“About 90 per cent of Mogadishu’s revenue is from Miraa and should be prioritized by Kenya in bilateral talks. When Somalia President was negotiating for direct flights to Kenya, our president should have sought ease of doing miraa business in the neighbouring nation,” Mr Munjuri sad.
Nyamita has raised concern over Somalia authorities’ hasty directives that they say have hurt the business severally.
Reports from ‘Somaliupdate’ indicated that Hirshabelle State officials welcomed the use of Jowhaar airstrip by miraa cargo planes promising good services for traders.