The increased chicken meat imports from neighbouring countries is causing more harm than good to Kenyan poultry farmers. Poultry farmers have in the past two years complained about lack of protection by the government. For example, Uganda is exporting chicken meat to Kenya, tax free while Kenyan farmers are importing at 25 percent, - 18 percent VAT, six percent withholding tax (WHT) and one percent railway development levy. This is a clear indication of discrimination of goods coming from neighbouring countries. Uganda’s actions violate World Trade Organisation Principle on Non-Discrimination of goods from neighbouring countries. It doesn’t mean that because Uganda is the largest trade partner with Kenya, our government should forget the farmers.
The Kenyan poultry industry is a major source of employment, with an estimated three million people deriving their livelihood and income from poultry farming, processing and related activities. It also employs veterinarians, researchers and extension officers.
The poultry industry is a major source of livelihood for people in the rural areas including thousands of youth and women who are engaged in rearing chicken and other domestic birds. Thousands of Kenyan enterprises, large and small, are involved in poultry production and processing in both rural and urban areas.
Poultry also provides a base for value addition activities. In addition, many farmers are engaged in contract farming for large processors and supply schools, hospitals, hotels and other institutions.
If poultry value chain is not protected, therefore, all the gains will be eroded, and the industry will be at it worse or verge of collapse.
Article 32 of the common market protocol obliges the Partner States to undertake progressive harmonisation of their tax policies and laws on domestic taxes with a view to removing tax distortions in order to facilitate the free movement of goods, services, and capital and the promotion of investments within the Community.
The current tax regime favours importers and is a great disadvantage to the Kenyan farmers and producers. Ugandan producers currently import between 25-30 tonnes of chicken weekly into Kenya – this represents at least 10 percent of the formal processed chicken market.
In Africa, lessons have been learned in Ghana, and South Africa where the local poultry industry has collapsed, due to similar circumstances.
This means that the Uganda poultry products have a free access to the Kenyan market while the Kenyan products are hindered from access to Uganda through Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) or imposition of domestic taxes (VAT, withholding taxes or railway levies).
Tanzania has also imposed stringent requirements for compliance from the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) which many players in the poultry sector have seen as deliberate efforts to bar them from accessing the market.
Worth noting is the fact that Tanzania with effect from 2016 banned the importation of poultry and poultry products into the country. We therefore cannot over emphasize the vulnerability of the Kenyan poultry industry from the regional attack.
In order to safeguard the industry gains, the poultry stakeholders are urging the government to close the boarders of similar to other EAC countries. Both Uganda and Tanzania have closed their boarders, why has Kenya kept borders open for processed chicken? If not, Uganda to drop taxes to Kenyan imports.
Patrick Githinji and Monica Wanjiru, members of Federation of Kenya Poultry Farmers.