THE UK appears unlikely to review its ban on miraa trade, noting in a statement yesterday that the decision "was not taken lightly". Few days after former prime minister Raila Odinga petitioned UK's Prime Minister David Cameron for an extension of the effective date of the ban scheduled to begin on June 24, the British High Commission in Nairobi has denied that the decision was directly targeted at Kenya.
"The UK government has had a long-standing intention to review the legal status of miraa. As the Home Secretary set out in July 2013, this decision was not taken lightly and the UK recognised the economic implications for a number of countries, predominantly in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula," said the statement from the High Commission.
In his petition sent last Friday, Raila had requested for a one year extension for implementation of the ban to allow communities in Meru and Nyambene to explore alternative economic activities and markets since they largely depend on miraa, with the UK as the main export market.
"The UK government recognises the concerns of Kenya as a producer country and will continue to work with the Kenyan government through aid and development programmes to support economic growth," added the statement by the British High Commission in Nairobi.
In her statement last year when she announced the intention to ban trade and use of miraa also known as khat in the UK, Secretary of State for the Home Department Theresa May said failure to do so would make the UK a hub for traficking of the herb which has been banned in other EU countries as well as those in the G8 such as USA and Canada.
Kenya exports an estimated 20 tonnes of miraa to the UK weekly bringing in about Sh14 million, a drop from 60 tonnes sold in that country three years ago before the legal tussles and looming ban affected the market.
The miraa exporting agency Sakijo International however feels both the government and political leaders were not proactive to protect the UK exporting market. "If only it could have been done when we saw the signs of the motives of these countries," said Sakijoon its Facebook page.