Monday October 5, 2020
MOGADISHU (HOL) – Somalia imposed a ban on khat imports in March in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic but chewing of the leafy stimulant in Mogadishu and other parts of the country has not stopped though it now costs an arm and a leg to sustain the habit.
A spot-check by HOL in Mogadishu reveals that trade and consumption of khat which is largely smuggled in from neighbouring Kenya is going on unabated despite a ban which to date has not been lifted.
The Federal Government lifted the ban on international flights July 30 but had no good news for khat traders both in Kenya and Somalia-the ban would remain in force.
Despite the ban, dealers in the trade in the two countries have found ways of keeping the business alive. According to a report by Kenya’s Daily Nation in late September, the drug is smuggled through the coastal town of Lamu into Somalia where it is shipped to various parts of the country. With no maritime police to man the ocean, transporting the consignment to various sattelite towns in the country could be a walk in the park.
But for many consumers now, keeping ‘high’ is so dear a price that one might have to forego other essential needs. To pay house rent or indulge in a chewing spree? Prior to the ban, a kilogram of khat cost $20 but it now costs between $60 and $90.In a country where majority of the population live below a dollar a day, spending $90 for a kilogram of khat whose shelf life is barely four days might sound superflous or at best suicidal but the chewing goes on afterall.
The illegal trade on khat means the government is losing out on taxes which form a plank of the country’s annual budget. According to the 2019 National Budget, the government raked in $13.4 million in taxes on khat. In the Financial Year 2020, the national treasury factored in $14 million in revenues from khat taxes. However, the ban means the government may have to write off that revenue line for this year.