By ANTHONY KITIMO

By LUKE ANAMI

Kenya has blocked dozens of trucks carrying maize from Tanzania due to quality issues, even as the country grapples with dwindling stocks and soaring prices of the commodity.

The maize shortage in the country has pushed flour prices up from $1.40 to around $2 for a two-kilogram pack in a week as millers cut production in half.

But at the Namanga, Holili and Lunga Lunga border crossing points with Tanzania, the dispute over grain quality is queuing trucks loaded with maize, awaiting customs clearance in Kenya.

According to Kenyan government officials, Tanzanian exporters do not have phytosanitary certificates, so product quality and safety cannot be verified. But Tanzanian Agriculture Minister Hussein Bashe dismissed the claims as sincere and unfair, saying Tanzania provides quality grain, “even to the World Food Programme”.

Read also : The region is starving as Tanzania seeks a market for its surpluses

Kenya, in a memo to border post officials, called for fidelity to the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the World Trade Organization agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary regulations.

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Tanzania called this an act of commercial 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, such as in plant protection services, to ensure that foreign harmful pests, diseases and noxious weeds are not introduced or spread into the country.

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Denigrate a figure

Mr Bashe accused Nairobi of undermining a number of bilateral trade agreements and the EAC market protocol, leading to a stalemate at border crossings.

“Kenya has imported foodstuffs such as maize, avocado and others for which Tanzania has acquired special export certificates according to IPPC, but we are shocked at the way Kenya treats our products. , causing them to remain stranded at the border,” the minister said at the Namanga crossing this week.

“We suspect what Kenya is doing is exactly what their intermediaries did last year to expose our product to harsh weather conditions to reduce its quality to make it low priced, but we have orders from the President Samia Hassan to protect the interests of Tanzanian farmers.We will not compromise this until we receive a notice of non-compliance from the Kenyan government, which we suspect of acting unprofessionally, but we will follow all procedures to solve the problem in order to allow the free flow of maize to Kenya,” the Minister said.

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Milling costs

Mr. Bashe, however, later changed his tune, explaining that some traders were loading maize trucks without completing export license forms online and were at the border waiting for a licence.

“There are at least 40 trucks in Namanga without an export license. So I want to warn traders, ‘don’t go without a licence’,” he said. “Export licenses are online, get them and keep trading. But don’t try to recycle the certificates for later exports.

He said it helps track trade and products and protect against accusations of poor quality products.

He named a few unscrupulous traders smuggling goods across borders and warned that tough action would be taken against them.

Meanwhile, Kenyan millers have warned of a further rise in maize meal prices if the shortage persists.

Grain Belt Millers Association President Kipng’etich Mutai advised consumers to prepare for higher prices as they find it more difficult to outsource corn “to support our milling operations”.

Kitui Flour Mills in Mombasa has already reduced its activities after running out of maize. “We usually need 950 tons of maize to operate fully, but currently we have cut our operations in half since we have around 550 tons, which will run out in one day,” said Anwar Ahmed, a miller manager. East Africa Thursday.

Johnson Weru, Kenya’s principal secretary in the ministry of industrialization, trade and business development, said government officials from Kenya and Tanzania plan to meet in July to discuss emerging non-tariff barriers at border crossings. of Namanga, Horohoro, Holili and Lunga Lunga, as these threaten to derail the gains made in intra-EAC trade.