Inside a cartel 'conning' miraa traders
Miraa traders are up in arms over a ‘cartel’ that has been charging them what they call illegal fees for their exports.
The traders now want President William Ruto to make true his pledge to eliminate ‘cartels’ sabotaging the khat trade with Somalia.
Exporters have been decrying the introduction of a Sh550 commission per bag by shady brokers based in Nairobi and Mogadishu, making the Kenyan produce uncompetitive in Somalia.
Nyambene Miraa Trade Association (Nyamita) chairman Kimathi Munjuri said the ‘cartel commission’ was introduced in July after the resumption of trade.
A day before his inauguration, President Ruto vowed to eliminate the miraa cartel when he attended a thanksgiving service in Maua town.
“This week I have a meeting with the President of Somalia and [at the] top of the agenda is the miraa business. The miraa brokers and cartels should not threaten you,” he said on September 11.
“Since you have given me the whip, I will deal with them immediately. I take the oath of office on Tuesday. If anyone here knows any member of the cartel, notify them that I am coming for them.”
But Mr Munjuri said the government is yet to intervene and that the cartels have been emboldened.
He said Kenyan traders are losing out on several Somalia markets due to hefty charges and an export quantity quota that restricts them to 19.2 tonnes a day.
This is a decline from more than 50 tonnes sold before a ban was imposed three years ago.
“When we tried to resist paying the commission to the shady cartels, they blocked our cargo. We believe that some government officials are taking a share of the illegal commission,” Mr Munjuri said.
He said the onset of rains has led to increased production but traders cannot buy more than 19 tonnes from farmers.
“The supply limit in Mogadishu is intended to benefit our competitors from Ethiopia. We are already feeling the pinch because miraa is no longer fetching a premium price,” he said.
Maua miraa traders’ chairperson Mohamed Quresh said businesses have been struggling after cartels positioned their representatives in all towns.
“We are struggling because those who invaded the business have threatened to influence a ban on trade with Somalia if they are kicked out. We are only buying miraa for sale in the north-eastern region. We have been edged out of the Somalia trade,” Mr Quresh said.
Mr Munjuri accused the government of neglecting the crop and creating unreliable export markets.
“We recently lost the Djibouti market after two days because the government has failed to formalise trade agreements.”
Nyamita also wants the government to revive stalled projects that were initiated through the miraa fund.