Somalia khat traders suspend imports in tax protestBy ABDULKADIR KHALIF in Mogadishu | Thursday, May 31 2012 at 17:01
Merchants in the Somali capital Mogadishu trading in khat, the mind-stimulating herb popular in the country, have since Tuesday suspended its importation.
Ms Zeinab Yusuf, a khat trader in the capital's southern precincts told this reporter that the importers were objecting to a hike in import duties of the lucrative shrub.
"The business people have been annoyed by an increase in taxation on imported khat at the airport,” said Ms Yusuf.
Unconfirmed reports said that the customs office at Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle International Airport had introduced a new tax rate on khat, leading to the traders' protest.
“The government doubled the import duties on the herbs,” said Mr Ali Nour, a dedicated khat chewer in Mogadishu, who said that he had quenched his "thirst" by buying left-over khat at a very high price.
“Look, at Hamarweyne market in the city centre, a bundle of ‘two-day old’ leftover khat costs as much as $35 from only $15 on Monday’ complained Mr Nour.
Consumers usually chew the leaves and peeled skin of the twigs to get at the juice that gives a state of mind-stimulation locally known as Marqaan.
Khat consumed in Mogadishu is totally imported from Kenya while women dominate the retail trade.
The suspension has hit trading families hard, especially in households where women are essentially the breadwinners.
No official statements have been made by the government or the khat importers so far, despite the empty markets.
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