10 May 2014

Kenya: Miraa Exporters Seek Chinese Market Okay

Photo: IRIN
UK bans sale and export of Khat in the country (file photo).

Miraa exporters are hoping that Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, who jetted into the country on Friday evening, will vocalise support for their bid to take the stimulant to China.

The traders said on Friday they were lobbying Members of Parliament from regions where khat is grown - who include Mithika Linturi, Florence Kajuju and Joseph M'Eruaki - to push for an endorsement from PM Keqiang.

Growers and exporters of the stimulant are looking for new markets to supplement loss of key ones such as the Netherlands which banned miraa imports in 2012 and and the UK which is set to pass a similar law later this month.

"We had no prior information on the Premier's state visit so we did not prepare any official negotiation, but we hope that the issue of exporting miraa to China can be discussed when our president hosts the PM," said Kimathi Munjuri, the spokesperson of Nyambene Miraa Traders Association.

President Uhuru is hosting PM Li Keqiang in State House today where the two countries are expected to strike numerous bilateral deals, including financing of the standard gauge railway.

The khat traders say neighbouring Ethiopia exports to China under a bilateral agreement and are crossing fingers for a similar arrangement. The world's second largest economy apparently hosts a sizeable number of immigrants from Arab countries and Somalia who are major consumers of the stimulant.

"When we travelled to China and even Ethiopia on a sensitisation tour, we did not learn much, except that without a trade agreement, we cannot export Miraa to China," Munjuri said.

The traders have been pursuing diplomatic intervention to salvage the UK market which is slowly slipping out of view, but continued frustrations are standing in their way. They point out hefty legal fees that are billed by the minute and inability to access facts of on the case as major hurdles. The UK is expected to sign the bill to law by May 26.

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