By PATRICK JARAMOGI
KAMPALA-SHIFTMEDIA– The consequences of Kenyan banning Uganda’s maize despite being a member of the East African Community are beginning to bite.
Kenya on March 5 2020 slapped a ban on all maize imports from Uganda due to what it described as high levels of mycotoxins, particularly aflatoxins present in Uganda’s maize.
The dire consequences due to irresponsible behaviour on the part of government of Uganda officials will see the nation lose USD$ 121 million (Shs 447b) in exports revenue earning from maize, according to Bank of Uganda.
Now civil society organisation led by the Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiation Institute, (SEATINI- Uganda). Food Rights Alliance and The Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) are tasking government to act immediately.
The CSOs noted that this is not the first time Kenya was banning Ugandan products.
“Last year Kenya stopped the importation of milk from Uganda and also banned all chicken, meat and eggs from Uganda. In July 2020 Kenya stopped the importation of 6,000 tones of raw sugarcane from Uganda,” said Jane Nalunga the SEATINI Uganda Executive Director.
Nalunga noted that Uganda’s products have had several challenges regarding adhering to quality and set standards.
She said studies conducted by researchers from Makerere University has indeed shown that maize from Uganda has high levels of aflatoxins.
“Much as we are dealing in an open free market economy, I doesn’t mean that we should sell our rotten food to Kenya, but Kenya much as it has its rights to reject bad food, as a member of the EAC it should have used the set treaties to notify Uganda, before hand,” she said.
Nalunga and officials from CEFROHT and Food Rights Alliance Uganda were addressing the media in Kampala on Sunday.
She said: Let’s look at deeper issues. We need a transformation in the regional integration process. We don’t need regional integration where we are fighting over maize grains,” she said.
Nalunga urged government to increase funding in agriculture and quality implementing bodies such as Uganda National Bureau of Statistics.
Government dragged to court
Not all will be lost to the thousands of farmers whose maize has been rejected from Kenya. Apparently, according to lawyer David Kabanda, the Executive Director Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT), government will have to compensate the farmers for the loss.
“The trade issues in East Africa have a missing link regarding the law. We are under the East African Community that was formed under a treaty that explains how disputes among partner states should be resolved,” said Kabanda.
He highlighted article 131 of the EAC Treaty that implores all EAC member states to have food reserves. “It is the duty of government to ensure whatever leaves the country is inspected to meet the deserved quality standards. So where were the agencies tasked with this role when the maize was leaving for Kenya?” he said.
“We shall drag government to court to ensure they compensate these farmers for neglect,” said counsel Kabanda.
Maize Farmer speaks out
George Kirabira a renown maize farmer from Nakaseke lashed out at government for not enforcing quality standards. Kirabira who said thousands of farmers are suffering due to un regulated maize market said the blame shouldn’t be heaped solely on the farmers.
“The issue of aflatoxins is chain linked. Right from the grass root farmer, the middle men who buy from the farmers to the dealers who own private stores and milling machines, to the giants firms that export abroad,” he said.
He said government should increase funding in the agriculture sector, support farmers with low interest loans and access to credit, and put reserve price maize.
‘Imagine a farmer spends over one million shillings planting maize but when harvest time comes maize is sold at shs300 per kilo yet the price of maize seeds ranges between Shs 2000- 20,000 depending on quality,” he said.
Government also needs to ask these firms that sell us seeds where they get their seeds from.
“A seed that is sold with aflatoxins, will yield maize with aflatoxins. And why should these seed firms buy seeds from us at shs700 and resell to the farmers at Shs 2000?” he queried.
Africa Kiiza the Policy Analyst, Trade Policies and Negotiations at SEATINI UGANDA said there is need to strengthen the institutions of the EAC to address trade disputes.
He said since the EAC was formed 20 years ago, over the past 7 years, it has receded. “We have seen disputes between Uganda and Kenya, Tanzania and Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, why, because we have refused as partner states to part away with our sovereignty.
Agnes Kirabo the Executive Director Food Rights Alliance Uganda implored Ugandans to also look out for unscrupulous farmers who spray crops to dry fast or who don’t follow set standards. ‘If we don’t be watchmen, we shall end up with aflatoxins in our stomachs and cancer for that matter,” she said.
- Government must put in place food reserves
- There is need to put in place supportive infrastructure such as drying facilities
- There should be due process at the border to ensure only certified exporters who meet standards with standard certificates; rules of origin and export certificate are allowed to export.
- Government must increase budget allocations to Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, UNBS, Uganda Export Promotions Board and Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries.