Kenya outlines measures to increase agricultural trade among EAC partner States

Thursday, February 29th, 2024 03:48 | By
East African Community (EAC) Affairs Principal Secretary Abdi Dubat. PHOTO/Print

Kenya has announced fresh move to work with East African Community (EAC) member states to enhance trade in agricultural commodities and boost food security in the region.

East African Community (EAC) Affairs Principal Secretary Abdi Dubat said although EAC is one of the fastest-growing regional economies, with agriculture playing a major part, trade between partner states is hindered by several issues.

He identified some of the issues as unharmonised sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standard and technological constraints that include low capabilities in terms of skills and technology to come up with competitive product designs cable to penetrate the local and international market.

Market access

“The economies and livelihoods of citizens in the East Africa region are predominantly dependent on agriculture. Co-operation in agriculture and food security is one of the priorities that feature prominently in the EAC integration process,” Abdi told the Business Hub.

He identified market access barriers as meeting products specified standards, labelling, and the certification required for cross border trading. Others are high financial cost due to poor infrastructure, power tariffs and costly financing in terms of bank loans interest.

According to Dubat, informality of cross-border trade, and non-tariff barriers such as cumbersome administrative procedures regardless of the desire of the common market protocol and the slow pace in domestication and implementation of instruments adopted at the regional level are the other hurdles to agriculture trade treaties between the partners.

The agricultural sector accounts for between 25 per cent and 40 per cent of EAC Partner States (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and Republic of South Sudan) gross domestic product (GDP) and is the leading employer of over 80 per cent of the population in the region.

More than 70 per cent of the industries in the EAC states are agro-based and depend on agriculture as the main source of raw materials.

Agricultural commodities constitute about 65 per cent of the volume of intra-regional trade in the EAC. The sector is dominated by smallholder farmers who practice mixed farming, with crop production mainly under rain fed agriculture. The major food crops traded across the EAC region include potatoes, maize, rice, bananas, cassava, sorghum, millet and pulses.

Among cash crops, tea, cotton, coffee, sisal and horticultural products are the major ones, but there are also oil crops, tobacco, cashew nuts produced in some partner states. Dubat exuded confidence that Kenya’s trade with EAC countries has been facilitated by various regional agreements, such as the EAC Customs Union and the Common Market Protocol.

“These agreements aim to promote free trade and economic integration among member states,” he added.Dubat also noted that a number of initiatives to promote intra-EAC trading have been developed and promotion for adoption by the partner states is continuing.

One of the initiatives is the directive to have harmonised regulations in licensing and handling of farm inputs across the EAC member states.

This initiative aims at easing the cost of production and also open new markets for stakeholders engaged in trading with inputs including the pesticides and fertilisers.

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