Uganda to lock out Kenyan produce in new trade row

Wednesday, December 15th, 2021 01:00 | By
Trucks lined up to access the Busia One Stop Border Point. The queues can get as long as five to 10 kilometres with drivers waiting up to three days to get cleared. Photo/MUSA RADOLI

Kenyan farmers and manufacturers of processed foods will no longer access the Ugandan market, in what could threaten the country’s largest export market.

A statement from Ugandan officials say they will restrict from its domestic market, certain raw and processed agricultural products from Kenya in a reciprocal move that follows her eastern neighbour’s continued ban on some of her farm products.

On Monday, the Ugandan Cabinet finally agreed to the nearly two-year-old proposal, which has often been opposed by President Yoweri Museveni.

Uganda’s minister for East African Affairs, Rebecca Kadaga, said the Ugandan Cabinet has directed the agriculture ministry to identify and list particular Kenyan products that will then be banned by the Ugandan government “in a short time”.

“We have been too patient. In the past, we have not reciprocated, but now we are going to. This has gone on for too long and within a short time they too will understand what we are going through,” Kadaga warned.

Kadaga addressed the media on Tuesday morning. The statement drew protests from the Kenyan manufacturers, who said this it is not the time to create barriers when others are removing them.

“The free flow of trade, devoid of geographical barriers, is an essential element for economic prosperity in any country.

Globally, countries and regional economic blocs are continuously making efforts to remove barriers within their relative geographical areas in order to harness economic opportunities that lie in those potential markets,” said Kenya Association of Manufacturers CEO Phyllis Wakiaga.

She further noted: “Manufacturing does not only survive on the local market but also on regional markets.

Industries can only thrive if they are guaranteed ready and accessible markets for their products.

The decision will affect the local manufacturing sector as Uganda is Kenya’s leading trading partner. This will lead to reduced market access for the country’s products.”

Kenya and Uganda have for long had trade fights but the latest hostilities between the two EAC partner States began brewing in December 2019, when Kenya stopped importing Ugandan milk, particularly the Lato brand.

Kenya has been keen to protect its otherwise expensive agricultural sector that has been threatened by cheaper imports from both Uganda and Tanzania. High input costs, government taxes, have made Kenya’s agriculture sector unable to compete.

Poor management has exposed the sugar sector to imminent collapse from external competition after the government kept negotiating for a deadline extension of the tariff-free regime from Comesa nations to improve efficiencies in the sugar sector.

Wakiaga, however, clarified: “Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) are common in Regional Trade Agreements. We are committed in our advocacy towards a competitive and sustainable local manufacturing sector.

This includes pursuing the Partner States to resolve NTBs in the region to achieve a seamless flow of locally manufactured products, thus increasing investment and intra-EAC trade.”

Observers have pointed out that the restrictions go against a Customs Union Protocol established by the East African Community single market.

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