Planters of Yemen's national narcotic, qat, downed tools Friday to protest a government tax hike and promptly brought the market for the mild stimulant to an immediate standstill, an AFP correspondent said.
The strike by hundreds of qat planters in the Dhaleh region, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Aden and the main growing ground for the narcotic, starved the market of what has been chewed daily by almost every male in northern Yemen for centuries.
Such is the popularity of qat that President Ali Abdullah Saleh launched a campaign in 1999 to stop civil servants, military and police from chewing the evergreen that goes by the Latin name of "catha edulis" while on duty.
The anti-qat lobby point to the dangers of the social drug, which cuts the appetite and need to sleep, but it remains nonetheless the cornerstone of social life in Yemen.
Qat accounts for about one third of Yemen's agricultural output and the association estimates the qat economy at 2.6 billion dollars a year, about half of GDP – SANAA (AFP)
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