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Kenay: Relief as UK body rejects miraa ban calls

A miraa trader in Mutuati market in Igembe North district. PHOTO / Daily Nation

Saturday, January 26, 2013

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Good news for miraa farmers. The United Kingdom government has rejected calls to ban sale of miraa in that country.This is after its drugs advisory organ said there was no evidence to link its usage to adverse medical effects.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs said its in report released late on Wednesday that its members considered that khat should not be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

The news come as a relief to miraa farmers in Eastern Kenya who are still reeling from a recent ban by the Netherlands which aside from London, was their second European hub for the distribution of the commodity.

"The UK has done well because most of the miraa that is produced is for export and a lot of businessmen in this trade would have really suffered," said Jotham Koome a miraa dealer in Eastleigh.

According to the Nyambene Miraa Traders Association, London is Kenya's biggest foreign market for miraa with a volume of over 30 tonnes exported weekly while Netherlands was the second largest with a volume of between 18 and 20 tonnes per week.

There has been mounting pressure on the UK to also ban the drug, which is considered a cash crop in Meru, following similar bans in most European countries and the USA and Canada.

Somali, Yemeni, East African and middle east immigrants living in Europe are the main consumers of miraa.

"The ACMD considers that the evidence of harms associated with the use of khat is insufficient to justify control and it would be inappropriate and disproportionate to classify khat under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971," said the report by the UK advisory body.

"In summary, the ACMD considers that the harms of khat does not reach the level required for classification. Therefore, the ACMD recommend that the status of khat is not changed."

Groups calling for the ban on miraa has also said it caused social problems like family breakdowns and groupings at certain locations by miraa consumers.

Nyambene Miraa Traders Association spokesperson Kimathi Munjuri said the industry will look at ways to address some of the concerns raised to protect its UK market.

"Its time to put our house in order and we shall be working out ways to address littering, gathering in large crowds and come up with strategies to improve packaging and pesticide use," said Munjuri.

Source: The Star


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