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Miraa traders lost Sh500m due to Somalia cargo flights ban

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Miraa traders at the Kiengu market in Igembe Central, Meru County. People who grow and sell the stimulant have said they incurred losses amounting to Sh500 million due to the ban on cargo flights to Somalia. The ban has now been lifted. PHOTO | KENNEDY KIMANTHI | NATION MEDIA GROU

WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 14 2016

In Summary

– Only two cargo flights left for Mogadishu Wednesday after the suspension was lifted on Tuesday.

– Farmers also incurred losses due to loss of market and overgrown twigs during the period of the suspension of the flights.

– The farmers and traders have welcomed the resumption of flights to Mogadishu.

– They have thanked President Kenyatta for holding talks with the Somali president to end the one-week impasse.

Miraa traders lost about Sh500 million in the seven days that cargo flights to Mogadishu were suspended.

Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita) spokesman Kimathi Munjuri told Nation.co.ke that only two cargo flights left for Mogadishu on Wednesday after the suspension was lifted on Tuesday.

He said the announcement on resuming the flights came late on Tuesday and traders had to divert two planes that were set for other destinations.

“Only five planes have been operating since the Somalia government cancelled cargo flights last week. For the first three days, there were no significant flights as traders were reorganising themselves.

“The cargo has been going to Galcaio, Las Anod, Bassaso and Baladweyne airports. This means about 15 cargo planes have not been operating as is the norm,” Mr Munjuri said.

Each aircraft carries at least 90 bags of miraa, with a bag fetching between Sh70,000 and Sh100,000.

OVERGROWN TWIGS

Farmers also incurred losses due to the loss of market and overgrown twigs during the period the flights were suspended.

“Farmers had to stop harvesting their twigs because there was no market. I had expected to get about Sh100,000 from my farm but we could not harvest. The overgrown twigs will be pruned [thus] reducing our earnings,” said Mr Munjuri, who grows miraa in Igembe South.

Mr Munjuri lamented that the Somali government had failed to issue advance notice of the ban, leading to enormous losses.

“It is unfortunate that the Kenyan government was mean with facts on what led to the cancellation of flights. We want official communication to be issued in case of such serious interventions. Miraa is a scheduled crop and should not be left at the mercy of politicians,” he said.

The announcement on resuming the miraa flights was made on Tuesday after President Uhuru Kenyatta met his Somalia counterpart Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud on the sidelines of an international meeting.

The suspension had been blamed on a diplomatic row apparently caused by Meru Governor Peter Munya’s visit to Somaliland while other sources pointed to security precautions ahead of the meeting.

THANKED PRESIDENT

Meanwhile, farmers and traders have welcomed the resumption of flights to Mogadishu.

They have heaped praises on President Kenyatta for working with the Somali president to end the one-week impasse.

Henry Kinyua, a trader from Athiru Gaiti, said the opening of the airport to miraa cargo flights was a relief to traders whose crop is ready for harvesting.

“We do not want to continue dwelling on the past anymore. What has happened should be treated as bygones. We thank the President for his concern [for] miraa farmers and traders,” he said.

Allele Miraa Association chairman Nahason Kubai thanked the president for his efforts and called on politicians to stop playing politics with the crop.

“We appreciate the steps the Jubilee government has made so far [for] the miraa industry,” Mr Kubai said.

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