Kenya has blocked dozens of trucks transporting corn from Tanzania over quality concerns, even as the country struggles with dwindling supplies and skyrocketing prices for the raw material.
Maize shortages in the country have pushed flour prices up $1.40 to about $2 for a two-kilogram package within a week, as the millers cut production in half.
But at the Namanga, Holili, and Lunga Lunga border crossings with Tanzania, there was dispute over the quality of the grain has trucks loaded with corn queuing to be dispatched to Kenya.
According to Kenyan government officials, Tanzanian exporters lack phytosanitary certificates, so the quality and safety of the goods cannot be ascertained. But Tanzanian Agriculture Minister Hussein Bashe dismissed the claims, calling them disingenuous and unfair and saying Tanzania was supplying quality grains “even for the World Food Programme”.
Also read:Region starves as Tanzania seeks outlet for surplus
Kenya has issued a notice to border crossing managers calling for compliance with the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the World Trade Organization Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement.
Tanzania called this an act of trade sabotage.
In the IPPC, a member must obtain an import permit detailing the phytosanitary requirements of the importing country before exporting. All phytosanitary measures are based on international standards as with phytosanitary services to ensure that foreign harmful pests, diseases and noxious weeds are not introduced or spread into the country.
Read:Kenya grain producers see red for Dar imports
Undermining a row
Mr Bashe accused Nairobi of undermining a row of bilateral trade deals and the EAC market protocol, leading to a deadlock at border crossings .
“Kenya imports foodstuffs such as corn, avocado and others for which Tanzania has acquired special export certificates under IPPC, but we are shocked at how Kenya treats our products resulting in them being received at stuck at the border,” the minister said at the Namanga crossing this week.
“We suspect Kenya is doing exactly what its middlemen did at some point in the last year to exposing our product to harsh weather to reduce its quality Render it to get low prices, but we have orders from Pr President Samia Hassan to protect the interests of Tanzania’s farmers. We will not jeopardize this until we receive a non-compliance notice from the Kenyan government, which we suspect is acting unprofessionally, but we will follow all procedures to resolve the issue and allow corn to flow freely into Kenya,” he said Minister. p>
Read:Maize exports from Tanzania to Kenya increase six-fold
However, Mr Bashe later changed his mind and explained that some traders loaded trucks with corn without filling out the export permit forms online and were at the border waiting for the permit.
“There are at least 40 trucks in Namanga without an export permit. So I want to warn traders: ‘Don’t go without a license,'” he said. “Export licenses are online, get them and go ahead and trade. But don’t try to recycle the certificates for later exports.”
He said it helps to track trade and products and protect against allegations of poor quality products.
He cited a few unscrupulous traders who smuggle goods across the borders and warned that strict action would be taken against them.
Meanwhile, Kenyan millers have warned that cornmeal prices could rise further should the shortage
< p>The chair of the Grain Belt Millers Association, Kipng’etich Mutai, advised consumers to brace for higher prices as they face greater difficulties in offloading corn “to sustain our milling operations.”
Kitui Flour Mills in Mombasa has already cut back its corn operations after corn ran out. “We normally need 950 tons of corn to work fully, but currently we have reduced our operations by half as we have about 550 tons that will be used up in a day,” Anwar Ahmed, an official at the miller, told East Africa Thursday.
Johnson Weru, Kenya’s chief secretary at the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and Enterprise Development, says Kenyan and Tanzanian government officials plan to meet in July to discuss the emerging non-tariff barriers to be discussed at the Namanga, Horohoro, Holili and Lunga Lunga crossings as these could wipe out profits from trade within the EAC.