The Somalia government has suspended all cargo and passenger flights into the country, dealing a big blow to local miraa farmers.
In a notice issued on Monday by the Federal Government of Somalia, miraa imports from Kenya and Ethiopia were banned for 15 days starting from 1am yesterday after it confirmed its first case of Covid-19.
Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita) Chairman Kimathi Munjuri said no miraa was exported to Somalia Thursday, leaving them stranded with about 50 tonnes of the commodity.
Governors from Mandera, Wajir and Makueni have also suspended miraa trade, with Isiolo governor Mohamed Kuti threatening to ban it if hygiene is not observed.
Speaking to the Nation on phone, Mr Munjuri protested the manner in which the suspension was effected terming it malicious.
“For the last two days, we have been trying to confirm the official position of the Somalia and Kenya governments on the suspension of miraa trade to no avail. They issued a short notice at 4pm through pilots.
“We were expecting they would notify traders in time. It seems we are the first economic casualties of the coronavirus outbreak,” Mr Munjuri said. He added that the association had written to the Ministry of Trade, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, the Kenya Airports Authority and Ministry of Transport seeking information but they were yet to get any clarification or the official position of the government on the matter.
Mr Munjuri also took issue with counties that were banning the sale of miraa locally.
“All this is happening despite the Government of Kenya not received any official confirmation of communication from Somalia. In north eastern, we deliver 100 tonnes of miraa daily valued at more than Sh30 million while daily exports to Mogadishu are valued at Sh26 million,” he said.
Mr Munjuri said all miraa handlers were adhering to hygiene guidelines provided by the Ministry of health.
He called on the government to fast-track the release of miraa funds that were meant to cushion farmers from the shocks of the troubles facing the crop.
“The government should urgently release the money meant to provide loans to farmers so that they survive the hard times. We already have Saccos that can receive the funds and lend to farmers,” he said.
He also urged the government to engage Somalia to ensure cargo flights resume adding they were ready to adhere to stringent precaution measures.