The Star (Nairobi)

28 January 2013

Kenya: Traders May Go to Netherlands Court Over Miraa Ban

MIRAA traders are considering suing the Netherlands government for banning the sale of the stimulant.

This is after a UK report released last Wednesday said there was no evidence to link the drug to any health problems, thereby rejecting calls for a ban in that country.

"For the Netherlands market, we are consulting widely on what to do. So far, our options are only two: bilateral negotiations between the two governments to have the ban reversed which we are pushing through our Ministries for Trade, Agriculture and the Prime Minister," said Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita) spokesperson Kimathi Munjuri.

"The second one is to get our consignees in Amsterdam to seek legal redress for extreme discrimination and probable economic crime against us all."

Netherlands banned the sale of miraa on January 5, following in the footsteps of many European countries and the US and Canada.

The Dutch government cited noise, nuisance by miraa users and littering as some of the reasons behind the ban. Netherlands was the distribution hub for miraa to other European countries and the ban has led to hundreds of packers, transporters and farmers rendered jobless according to Nyamita.

Prior to the ban, Kenya exported between 18 to 20 tonnes of miraa to Netherlands weekly. The UK now remains the largest international market for miraa with 30 tonnes being exported there every week.

The UK's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs said in its report that khat (as miraa is called in UK) should not be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

To protect its only market and improve chances of having the Dutch ban revoked, miraa traders are planning certain measures to address the concerns raised by groups calling for its ban in Europe.

"Of most concern is improving output, faster and safer transportation, care for miraa plants, application of pesticides, school dropouts, child labour, timely payment for supplies and services be they locally or at the export level, saving regime, investment, hygienic handling and packaging and chewing and distribution habits in London and other markets overseas, new markets and application of Miraa in its natural form," said a statement by Nyamita.

Munjuri said the report that Netherlands used to ban the drug had indicated that 90 per cent of those polled did not see a problem with use of miraa. He added that i was therefore "discriminatory" for Netherlands to ban the drug because of minority opinion.

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