It all began on March 5th when the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) stopped any further imports of maize into Kenya with immediate effect.
This move was necessitated by the Kenyan government’s need to control the entry of unsafe maize. According to the ministry of agriculture, previous test results for maize imported from Uganda and Tanzania revealed high levels of mycotoxins consistently beyond safety limits. Mycotoxins particularly aflatoxins and fumonisins are carcinogenic.
This move by the government cast a shadow over the shortage of maize in the country, but the ministry was quick to reassure citizens of a stable maize supply stating, “The Ministry further wishes to avert fear over alleged shortage of maize in the country. Projections up to the end of May 2021 indicate a surplus of 11,807,681 90kg bags, with the price of maize expected to remain stable.”
Currently, the wholesale maize price is averaging Sh2,600/= ($26) per 90 kg bag, with the highest prices of up to Sh4,392/= ($44) reported in Garissa county and the lowest prices of Sh1,980/= ($20) in Laikipia county. But this move has given rise to unscrupulous businessmen who are sneaking maize into the country and the government has gotten wind of this. It has therefore put these individuals on notice should this continue.
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In a statement, the agriculture ministry noted that these individuals are smuggling the maize through non- gazetted border points. “The law enforcement agencies have so far, nabbed 39 lorries ferrying maize from Uganda. 25 lorries are being held at Busia police station while 14 are at Adungosi, as the Ministry, through its Agriculture and Food Authority heightens surveillance along all border points. A stern warning has been issued against culprits contravening the government directive, and traders found culpable will be arrested and charged in the Kenyan Court of Law.”
The civic body has now taken several measures to facilitate safe trade of maize and other related food commodities across the East African Community region. It has now moved to register all dealers of food crops including the transporters, importers and processors and has requested that stakeholders log on to www.afa.imis.go.ke for requirements for registration upon which all the applicants will be vetted and approval granted through issuance of a Registration Certificate. Once this process is completed, successful applicants shall be notified on the need to apply for pre-shipment documents stating the source of produce, purpose and destination including the storage facility where the produce shall be offloaded.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and DCI are also on high alert to deal with any corrupt officers and/or traders at border points who shall engage in corrupt practices in exchange for maize entry approval stamps without inspection and verification.
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AFA is working in collaboration with the regulators and other competent authorities from the exporting countries to provide guidelines on how to meet the relevant EAC standards.
Data from the Agriculture ministry shows that Kenya imported about 277,350 tons of maize last year. Over 90 per cent came from Uganda and Tanzania.
This is the reasoning behind the government’s move to certify stakeholders for proper documentation as well as monitoring.
The food crops sub-sector has been generally unregulated since independence. This has led to many malpractices including unmonitored imports and cross-border trade leading to poor quality and unsafe crop produce and products.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the “SPS Agreement”) entered into force with the establishment of the World Trade Organization on 1 January 1995. It concerns the application of food safety and animal and plant health regulations.
The agreement states that all countries maintain measures to ensure that food is safe for consumers, and to prevent the spread of pests or diseases among animals and plants. These sanitary and phytosanitary measures can take many forms, such as requiring products to come from a disease-free area, inspection of products, specific treatment or processing of products, setting of allowable maximum levels of pesticide residues or permitted use of only certain additives in food. Sanitary (human and animal health) and phytosanitary (plant health) measures apply to domestically produced food or local animal and plant diseases, as well as to products coming from other countries.
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To ensure compliance, the government of Kenya has required its EAC Partner States to issue Certificates of Conformity (CoC) to all Kenya-bound consignments.
“These CoCs shall be issued by a competent authority from the exporting country processed through the KENTRADE single window system to be verified and approved by the crops inspectors. Additionally, random sampling shall be done at the border points with rapid testing to confirm that the grain is as per the conformity certificate issued by the exporting country,” reads a statement from the ministry.