“Such unilateral decisions have undermined free trade in EAC. If I recall we have EAC harmonized standards, so how does it come to this? It started with Milk, Tiles, Beef, etc. I believe Uganda’s only crime is having closed in the trade deficit. It caught our neighbors by surprise,” says Kateshumbwa.
“Aflatoxins are not new and there is a mechanism in place for the EAC to deal with them. So long as EAC is a common market Kenya must respect the Treaty," says
Zitto Kabwe, the leader of Tanzania’s opposition party Alliance for Change and Transparency.
There are questions
lingering on as to why Kenya abruptly banned Uganda’s maize exports to the country
disregarding all EAC protocols.
last related incident was in 2018 when 600 metric tonnes worth about Ushs 180
billion was returned by Kenya, claiming it had traces of aflatoxin, among other
was communicated by Kenya’s Agriculture and Food Authority to the Commissioner Customs
at Kenya Revenue Authority.
Authority says they have been conducting studies which revealed that maize
imports from Uganda and Tanzania had high levels of mycotoxins that were consistently
beyond safety levels.
Aflatoxins are poisonous substances produced by certain kinds of fungi
(moulds) that are found naturally all over the world, and, according to World
Health Organisation, they can contaminate food crops and pose a serious health
threat to humans and livestock.
WHO adds that aflatoxins also pose a significant economic burden,
causing an estimated 25% or more of the world’s food crops to be destroyed
of Uganda admits the high prevalence of aflatoxins in produce especially maize,
sorghum, millet, Groundnuts and cassava, and has put in places measures to
done over 12 years up to 2018 and published in an online journal, Science Direct,
shows that Uganda loses US$ 577 million (Ushs 200
billion) annually as a result of 3700 aflatoxin-induced liver cancer cases.
In addition, the aflatoxin-related
illnesses cost the government of Uganda an extra US$ 910,000 on health
services, according to the study.
Uganda, through the Uganda National Bureau of Standards, UNBS,
has developed standards against aflatoxin in the affected products and harmonized
them with the East African Community standards. The standards have been used to test the quality for grain meant
for both the local and the export markets.
UNBS Acting Executive Director, David Livingstone Ebiru says
that together with other agencies, they have been conducting surveys on millers
in and around Kampala and sensitizing them on grain standards, especially
He says the efforts are important not only for the health of Ugandans,
but also for the export markets, including the World Food Program which has
offered Uganda a US$ 4.5 million market for maize this year.
According to Uganda bureau of
statistics, on annual basis, 2.8 million metric tons of maize in Uganda is
produced, but it is not clear how much of this ends up contaminated.
The annual exports of maize to Kenya are estimated at US$ 720 to US$ 900 million,
according to figures at the Bank of Uganda.
According to Preliminary estimates by the
US-based Famine Early Warning Systems Network, 2020/21
production in Uganda was higher than 2019/20, and was also higher than five-year
Uganda produced 14% of the maize in the
East African Community, Ethiopia and Somalia, but accounts for 30% of the
exportable surplus. However, the government, as well as the Grain Council of Uganda
say the export market, especially to Kenya, is being hurt by informal traders
both in Uganda and in Kenya, who do not follow the laid-out procedure.
“Kenyan traders come into the country and go directly to the
farmers to get maize, and end up buying though uncontrolled channels,” says
Chris Kaijuka, the Chairman of the Grain Council.
There are views in the
public that the ban by Kenya is just another non-tariff barrier aimed at
protecting her own maize industry. Minister Frank
Tumwebaze, himself a farmer, wondered why Kenya issued a ban without warning, saying
this is against the EAC treaties. “Why can't such issues be discussed under the forums of the EAC before
unilateral country decisions are taken at the detriment of the other community
members?” he wondered.
And former Commissioner Customs at the Uganda Revenue Authority,
and newly elected MP for Sheema Municipality Dicksons Kateshumbwa, calls on the EAC countries to stop
violating the protocols, for the survival of the Community.
“Such unilateral decisions have undermined free trade in EAC. If
I recall we have EAC harmonized standards, so how does it come to this? It
started with Milk, Tiles, Beef, etc. I believe Uganda’s only crime is having
closed in the trade deficit. It caught our neighbors by surprise,” says
“Granted! Have they just realized that our maize is bad? Many
Kenyans actually rent land on the Ugandan side and grow maize and export to
Kenya over the years. The game usually is to hide behind standards and take
unilateral actions without following the Common Market Protocol.” Section 1 of Article 21 of the EAC Customs Union Protocol, partner states are
supposed to prevent any anti-free trade practices.
“The Partner States shall prohibit any practice that adversely
affects free trade including any agreement, undertaking or concerted practice
which has as its objective or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion
of competition within the Community,” it states.
Article 22 (2) adds, “A Partner State shall not exercise the
right to introduce or continue to execute the restrictions or prohibitions
conferred by this Article in order to restrict the free movement of goods
within the Community.”
The rules give a partners state an obligation to notify the
Secretary General, of the intended introduction of restrictions. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture has partnered with the National Agriculture
Research Organisation, with funding from aBi Development Ltd, to finalize the
development of Aflasafe, a solution described as a safe and effective natural
product, to manage aflatoxin in crops.
The process launched in August last year, if successful, will
see a reduction in the levels of contamination of the produce.
Zitto Kabwe, the leader of Tanzania’s opposition party Alliance
for Change and Transparency
, said in a statement that Kenya’s concern can be handled
through the EAC framework on Aflatoxin in trade
“Aflatoxins are not new and there is a mechanism in place for
the EAC to deal with them. So long as EAC is a common market Kenya must respect
This Kenyan letter should go to the EAC Council of Ministers and
Kenya provides evidence of her claim.”