Kenyan khat farmers receive a lifeline as they start exporting the potent twigs to Israel joining rival Ethiopia

A Kenyan local khat farmer with his produce.
  • Farmers have in the past two weeks exported about 400 kilograms every week with the volumes expected to grow to about 200 tonnes in weekly exports to Israel.
  • The exports to Tel Aviv marks the culmination of years-long effort by Kenya to join rival Ethiopia which is currently one of the key khat exporters into the Israeli market.
  • The new market will help cushion the local farmers from more loss after key European markets banned the stimulant three years ago.

Kenya’s local khat (miraa) farmers have received a major lifeline and have started exporting the potent twigs to Israel.

Farmers have in the past two weeks exported about 400 kilograms every week with the volumes expected to grow to about 200 tonnes in weekly exports to Israel as farmers embrace the new market, according to Nyambene Miraa Traders Association Chairman Kimathi Munjuri.

The new market will help cushion the local farmers from more loss after key European markets banned the stimulant three years ago.

The exports to Tel Aviv marks the culmination of years-long effort by Kenya to join rival Ethiopia which is currently one of the key khat exporters into the Israeli market.

The export comes only after a year-long stalemate that saw Kenyan-grown khat seized and destroyed at the country’s airport for failing to meet set requirements. Kenya’s khat was only granted entry a year later after meeting the stringent licensing and documentation requirements.

Through Israeli-based importer Teffcom Dasa, Kenya received a five-year permit in late May 2018 to export unlimited khat to Israel.

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The permit from Israel’s Plant Protection and Inspection Services signed by the Director Abed Gera stated that the crop originating from Kenya had to adhere to various Israeli plant import regulations including having a phytosanitary certificate, which confirms the origin of the plant material.

"The consignment will arrive in closed containers, and, packaging should be un-used and a non-organic material," said Gera in the permit which also stated that exporters needed "to declare in the phytosanitary certificate whether parent plants were inspected during active growth and found to be free of virus diseases and plant parasitic nematodes."

Local farmers have had to work closely with the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) to meet the stringent food safety requirements.

Mr. Munjuri says the farmers had many shipments intercepted at the Ben Gurion Airport before the break-through to smooth shipping on July 8.

"It has not been an event, rather a process which is continuing," said Mr. Munjuri.

Kenya’s remaining viable foreign market is Puntland in Somalia, Somaliland, Mozambique and Angola.

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