Several tonnes of miraa cargo destined for Somalia are grounded in Nairobi as the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) cracks down on passenger aircraft operating as cargo planes.
Speaking to Nation, Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita) chairman Kimathi Munjuri said traders risk losing millions of shillings in the standoff.
Mr Munjuri said more than 30 tonnes of miraa that was delivered at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Wednesday evening was yet to be cleared for export by Thursday morning.
“Flights to destinations in Somalia and Somaliland including Mogadishu, Jowhar, Galkayo, Lasaanod, Garowe are grounded at JKIA awaiting seniors to give instructions on the way forward.
“If KCAA is sincere in enforcing safety and compliance, they would have done their inspection before the miraa was brought.
“The operators should have been notified of any inadequacies with their aircraft to avoid exposing miraa exporters and farmers to such levels of uncertainty and losses,” Mr Munjuri said in a statement.
The move comes after KCAA officials led by Director General Gilbert Kibe, last week made an impromptu visit to the airport following reports that passenger aircraft are used to ferry miraa.
However, no aircraft was found to be non-compliant during the inspection at Wilson Airport.
“A whistle blower alleged that there are [people] operating cargo flights using passenger aircraft. We have done investigations and found that this is possibly true. The search will continue by doing more inspections to find those operating irregularly,” Mr Kibe said.
The director general said operators found non-compliant will have their licenses and certificates withdrawn.
“We are also investigating KCAA officials alleged to be complacent in allowing the non-compliant operators,” he said.
But Mr Munjuri faulted KCAA saying it had failed in approving aircraft before they are put into cargo business.
“KCAA is involved and must certify an aircraft and its operator at every step of [its] acquisition. They also must be involved and certify every operation of an aircraft daily. So where is this knee-jerk decision emanating from?” Mr Munjuri posed.
He claimed there were traders and operators out to monopolise the miraa route.
Mr Munjuri noted that the delay may deal a big blow to the industry which is already reeling from shortage and farm gate high prices.
The Nyamita chairman said the miraa market has been hit hard by the ‘whistle-blower phenomenon’ in the past.
“Whistle blowers cost us the Europe market due to unending propaganda, innuendo and falsehoods against miraa to authorities there. Similar whistle blowers have cost us markets such as Lusaka, Lubumbashi, Maputo, Johannesburg, Germany, and Norway among others. Anonymous callers allege that the miraa cargo has drugs leading to delays in shipment,” he said.
Traders have urged KCAA and operators to move with speed to avert loss of the perishable twigs.