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Tuesday, 31 July, 2001, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Khat shortage hits Somalia
Somali imports
Khat supplies from Kenya have dried up
Millions of Somalii chewers of khat leaves are suffering as a trade ban imposed by Kenya over the weekend hits home.

Khat facts
Green-leaved shrub
Leaves remain potent for only a few days after picking
Leaves can be used to make tea or chewable paste
Banned in US, Canada, Norway and Sweden
Side-effects include appetite suppression, insomnia and anxiety
A BBC correspondent in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, said prices of the leaf, which acts a stimulant, have quadrupled in less than a day, and militiamen have set up road blocks to ensure they get hold of part of the dwindling supply.

Our correspondent says khat has become popular among militiamen, but he says it has been bad for the economy and for people's health.

The Kenyan authorities said the trade ban was imposed to curb the proliferation of illegal weapons in the region.

Daily trade

But khat farmers in Kenya have appealed for exemption from the cross-border ban, saying their livelihoods will suffer.

Khat bush
The khat leaves are grown in Kenya and flown to Somalia
Somali traders estimate the khat trade with Kenya is worth about $300,000 a day.

On Monday, only one small plane arrived in Mogadishu carrying khat, instead of the normal 15 daily flights, and that arrived from Kenya via Uganda.

A range of goods from electronic equipment to tea and clothing has also been halted.

An official at a deserted Mogadishu airport told our correspondent that they were losing $1,000 a day in revenue.

"It means we're out of business if the khat ban continues in this way," the official told our correspondent.

'Exaggerated'

Many Somalis think that Kenyan accusations of insecurity and weapons smuggling are exaggerated and point to Kenya's borders with Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda where weapon smuggling can also take place.

Somali counting US dollars
Somalis usually spend $300,000 a day on Kenyan khat
This is the second time in two years that Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi has taken such a step.

Kenya plays host to hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees in camps in northern Kenya, and thousands more have homes in Nairobi.

Armed crime has risen sharply in Kenya since the collapse of Siad Barre's government in Somalia in 1991, and Kenya's long border with Somalia is notoriously difficult to police.

This time, President Moi says Kenya will only deal with Somalia after it installs a legitimate government.

But Somali President Abdulkassim Salat Hassan's transitional government faces continued opposition from warlords and has little effective control of the country.

See also:

06 Jul 01 | Health
Fears rise over Khat leaf
30 Jul 01 | Africa
Kenya bans trading with Somalia
29 Aug 00 | Africa
Somalia's new civilian leader
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