The Foreign Affairs ministry will now deal with the standoff between Kenya and Somalia over miraa imports from Nairobi.
Somalia is demanding government-to-government talks after it snubbed a delegation of traders and officials from Kenya crops regulator, the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA).
Agriculture chief administrative secretary Anne Nyagah told Business Daily that the miraa stalemate will now be handled by the department of external relations and trade under the Foreign Affairs ministry.
“It will be initiated through Foreign Affairs,” said Ms Nyagah in reference to the demand for government-to-government talks.
Hope of resumption of the trade in the biggest market faded after Somalia exempted miraa from cargo allowed into the country after international flights resumed on August 3. Hope was further dimmed after a Kenyan delegation dispatched to engage the Somali government failed to unlock the impasse.
“Officials from the Ministry and Agriculture Food Authority were in Somalia over the issue though nothing tangible was reached at that time,” said a top AFA official who sought anonymity.
According to Maua town miraa traders’ chairman Mohamed Qureshi, their delegation met government ministers and were upbeat they would resume business this week.
“However, President Mohamed Farmaajo rejected our request to lift the suspension of miraa trade,” Mr Qureshi said.
“We are aware that the decision is not because of Covid-19 but due to Kenya’s recent hard stance on imports from Somalia. Recently, a lot of rice, sugar and fish from Somalia has been destroyed by Kenyan officials.”
He said traders who have been relying on the Somalia market are now considering venturing into alternative businesses to earn a living.
“Before the Covid-19 shutdown was declared, I would sell miraa worth more than Sh3 million every month. I am now going for a month without selling anything,” said Moses Lichoro, a farmer from Kabuitu in Igembe Central.
“We are pruning the trees and disposing the twigs. Over 50 people would earn wages from my farms but many of them are now jobless.”
According to data from the Ministry of Finance in Somalia, miraa was the third largest local revenue earner for the country last year at $16.6 million (Sh1.79 billion) in import tax.