Kenya diverts qat exports to Somalia after British ban

By Shukri Mohamed in Mogadishu

July 22, 2014

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Imports of qat into Mogadishu from Kenya have soared in recent weeks, ever since the British government implemented a ban on the stimulant last month.

  • Women traders sell qat at Mogadishu's KM4 on July 16, 2014. [Shukri Mohamed/Sabahi]

    Women traders sell qat at Mogadishu's KM4 on July 16, 2014. [Shukri Mohamed/Sabahi]

  • Somali women sell qat in Mogadishu on July 16th, 2014. [Shukri Mohamed/Sabahi]

    Somali women sell qat in Mogadishu on July 16th, 2014. [Shukri Mohamed/Sabahi]

Prior to the ban, the United Kingdom was Kenya's biggest export market for qat, known locally as miraa.

Now, Kenyan qat traders have diverted most of their product to Somalia for a fraction of the price, said Habon Sheikh Ali, a qat trader at Mogadishu's KM4 intersection.

"Before qat was banned in the United Kingdom, Mogadishu used to receive between 13 to 15 planes of qat daily, but now there are 23 to 25 planes of qat coming in daily," he told Sabahi. "This has resulted in a decline in qat prices, with each bundle selling for about $5 to $10, while it used to be between $15 and $20 a bundle before."

Each plane brings in 80 sacks of qat, with each sack containing 100 bundles. This means Somalis spend millions of dollars each day on qat brought into the country, Ali said.

Abdirisaq Mohamed Abdirahman, an economist who teaches at Simad University, said the detrimental impact of qat on the Somali economy was twofold.

Not only does qat consumption reduce individuals' personal wealth, it also harms the country's economy as a whole because people who chew qat work fewer hours than those who do not, resulting in a decline in productivity, he said.

"For example, if a person earns $15 a day and spends $10 on qat, that poses a problem for that person and his family as the money is spent in a meaningless manner," Abdirahman told Sabahi.

"It is also harmful to the country's general economy considering the fact that qat is brought into Somalia daily, yet we do not export any goods to the country it comes from," he said. "Instead, cash is removed from this country and it goes to the country the qat is imported from. That money that is being spent is very harmful to Somalia due to [the lack of] balance in trade."

Calls to ban qat

Abdirahman said qat should be banned in Somalia and the government should encourage qat traders to seek out and establish new enterprises.

"If qat is banned, the money that is spent on it would come back to the country and the people who trade in qat would create new businesses," he said, adding that "there are other unexploited businesses that need to be taken advantage of."

The government and private investors currently in the qat business should invest in rebuilding and revitalising the country's agricultural and fishing industries and help re-establish Somalia as a major exporter of exotic fruits and seafood such as mangoes, bananas and lobsters, he said.

The government's investment in these sectors can create thousands of new jobs without any of the negative elements associated with qat trade and consumption, he said.

For his part, Somali religious scholar Sheikh Mukhtar Haji Ahmed said he would support a nationwide ban on qat because its widespread use has been one of the major causes of Somalia's economic and social decline.

"According to our religion, anything that harms the life and health of a person is not allowed. Qat is a drug and according to sharia, any drug that alters the mind is forbidden," Ahmed told Sabahi. "Therefore, I urge Somalis to follow their religion and stop the sinful [use of] qat which is destroying their wealth and lives."

According to Doctor Mohamed Omar, who works at Dar es Salaam Clinic in Mogadishu's Hodan district, regular use of qat causes serious health and social problems.

"A person who chews qat usually suffers from stress and eventually gets a mental illness," he told Sabahi. "This person also does not eat much and even forgets to eat at times."

"Qat [also] breaks up many families since the father spends the money he gets on qat. This results in financial arguments within the family and eventually leads to a family break-up," Omar said.

The recent drop in price of the drug, caused by the sudden influx from Kenya, will increase public use and only exacerbate the negative impacts its widespread use has had in Somalia, he said.

Mohamed Hassan, a 27-year-old truck driver who works at the Mogadishu port and earns between $300 and $350 monthly, told Sabahi he buys and chews qat daily.

"Every day I spend about $5 to $10 to buy qat to chew," he said. "I am in debt by the end of each month, forget about me saving any money."

"I would like to see [qat] banned completely because I would then be forced to stop chewing it, save some money, marry a woman and have children," he said. "I cannot do any of that right now because I cannot save any money."

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Reader's Comments

  • axmed isaq bule
    August 9, 2014 @ 11:34:41AM

    Really, it is important to read more about Khat and it's effects because the Somali Community mostly don't understand the effects of Khat. On the other hand you will see people who understand it's effect but again chew it. I don't know the reason. May Allah guide our people. I also support the ban of Khat and to create jobs for Khat traders to create them.

  • axmed isaq bule
    August 9, 2014 @ 10:56:44AM

    qat & marajuan are very dangaros

  • Ali
    August 3, 2014 @ 06:56:52PM

    I will like Khat to be internationally banned and it is the worst killer. It is worse than cancer and AIDS because it fights both your health, and the family life. The Khat makes you to forget your children and parents.

  • C/fataax Xuseen Maxamed
    August 2, 2014 @ 05:22:21AM

    It is something good to read comments similar to these about the khat and it is social effects.

  • hassan mahamud Aden
    July 31, 2014 @ 04:49:40AM

    Really I don’t support banning the Khat from Somalia, because as you can see all the people in the country except few chew Khat and they are adapted to chew Khat, so let people have freedom to chew it, since it is something that gives the brain sensation of joy and excitement.

  • Abdiladif
    July 28, 2014 @ 02:34:54PM

    Fortunately, may Allah, the glorified and exalted guide us, Allah willing.

  • hersiina
    July 28, 2014 @ 10:35:18AM

    most of somalia govermant memberz chew qat so how should thet banned?

  • naasir xareed xaashi
    July 26, 2014 @ 10:23:04PM

    The khat creates dispute between the married couples and it is something that is not good for the children and all human beings.

  • naasir xareed xaashi
    July 26, 2014 @ 08:01:47PM

    If we can’t be very careful about Khat, then Somalia will be the biggest zoo in Africa.

  • Calanside Somaliyed
    July 26, 2014 @ 02:24:50PM

    Peace be upon to all Somali people! If I say my opinion on khat, there is no dispute that Khat is causing us a problem, everyone you ask about whether he likes to stop chewing khat, will tell you that he is seeking a way to stop it, and that he has plans to stop it... This tree is a magic tree and only people under the protection of Allah stop it. Some people tell you that they eat khat to worship Allah, and others will tell you that they can't work without chewing khat.

  • salaad xaji
    July 25, 2014 @ 09:50:55AM

    Really, I would like Somalia to ban completely Khat because the money of the Somali people goes to Kenya without favor, so I will urge Somali people to go against the Khat that other people have rejected and not to waste our resources.

  • ahmed qalon
    July 24, 2014 @ 05:46:13PM

    I don't support the termination because many people get their livelihood from it.

  • kay
    July 24, 2014 @ 10:32:35AM

    Everyone have the rights to feel free if the qat chewers addicted this drug and they want to keep chewing it I suggest to let them free on the other hand if the qat harms the economy of the country the government should stop not the community

  • Khalid Khalid
    July 23, 2014 @ 07:31:41AM

    Qat is totally an acceptable in country it is destroying our community and we have to fight to stop in any mins

  • oscar ngingo
    July 22, 2014 @ 03:35:10PM

    Does it mean Somalia needs that qat?

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