PSFU: Kenya’s Ban on Milk Powder Imports Contravenes EAC Common Market Protocol

PSFU Vice Chairperson Sarah Kagingo officiating an event of entrepreneurs (PHOTO/Courtesy)

PSFU Vice Chairperson Sarah Kagingo officiating an event of entrepreneurs (PHOTO/Courtesy)

KAMPALA —Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), the country’s apex body for the private sector, with over 200 business associations and 2 million individual businesses has described as unfortunate, a decision by Kenyan authority to ban milk powder importation from Uganda.

In a memo dated March Kenya Dairy Board said it sought to protect homegrown processors from regional competition.

Speaking to this website, on Thursday, Ms. Sarah Kagingo, the Vice Chairperson of PSFU said the ban by Kenya, contradicts regional trade protocols.

As per the East African Community (EAC) common market protocol, Uganda products should be permitted entry into the Kenyan market and vice versa, without any hindrance.

“Kenya’s ban on importation of our products is not new, if it’s not milk, it’s eggs or grain. The ban contradicts the EAC (East African Community) trade protocols, the Common Market Protocol on free movement of goods and services, as well as the agreement that established the African Free Continental Trade Area (AfCFTA),” said Ms Kagingo.

Asked whether PSFU would consider organising milk processors in Uganda for a protest at the Kenyan border, Ms Kagingo said their approach is engagement.

“Our approach is engagement not belligerence. Experience shows that engagement delivers,” said Kagingo.

She added,” regional trade should be the cornerstone of EAC Partner States’ policies. Our countries signed the Common Market Protocol in 2009 which came into force in July 2010. However, the practice often contradicts what was ratified, and businessmen engaged in export need handholding. We, in partnership with the Ugandan government, have held several business summits to, among others, resolve barriers to trade and travel.”

Asked what steps PSFU would take, Kagingo said Uganda’s private sector apex body will engage the Ugandan government and KEPSA.

“At a strategic level, we partner with government in pursuit of integration of markets for the benefit of the entire private sector in the region. We will table the unfortunate development to the Ugandan government to use their good offices and diplomatic mechanisms to engage the Kenyan government. We will also engage our counterparts – KEPSA,” Kagingo said.

In 2018, Ugandan milk exports totalled $131m. 74% of that ($96m) was exported to Kenya, according to data from United Nations Comtrade.

In 2019, Uganda’s exported dairy products were worth $135.9m, according to Ugandan government statistics. That figure is triple what the country earned in 2015 ($45m). Milk production also increased to 2.7 billion litres in 2019 from 2.08 billion litres in 2015.

But by 2018, Kenya began to poke holes in the cheap imports of Uganda’s milk in an effort to protect the local market. Kenya first raised its doubts on Uganda’s milk production capacity; but that was debunked through a fact-finding mission in 2019.

Technocrats then proposed a 16% levy on Ugandan milk to ensure it would be expensive in the Kenyan market but President Uhuru Kenyatta rejected the proposal. Soon after, a ban on Ugandan milk was imposed in 2020.

Since early 2021, the milk blockade has been extended to include maize imports from both Uganda and Tanzania. Nairobi said it had found these imports to contain high levels of aflatoxins that are consistently beyond safety limits.

It’s hard to measure the impact of this blockade since statistics of Uganda’s dairy exports to Kenya are not readily available. Mutahunga Emmanuel, Uganda’s commissioner for external trade, says he does not have exact figures of what volume and value of milk the country exported to Kenya in 2020.

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