Kenya’s long standing milk export standoff with Zambia has taken a positive turn with the regional trading bloc seeking intervention of the UN food agency.
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) said it would engage the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Zambian government to resolve the 13-year-old stalemate.
Zambia has for over a decade rejected Kenya’s milk on quality grounds, citing high level of bacteria which exceeds its national total bacteria count (TBC) of 200,000 per mililitre. Kenya follows the global benchmark of one million TBC per millilitre.
Comesa director for trade customs and monetary affairs Francis Mangeni was quoted saying in local Zambian media that experts from FAO, the ministries of Commerce, Trade and Industry as well as Agriculture from both countries will meet to sort out the issue.
“It’s about time the issue was finally resolved as it has been ongoing for the past 13 years,” he said.
“As Comesa, we plan to engage international experts to meet with the Zambian government to find possible ways to resolve the conflicts that blocked Kenya export milk and milk products to Zambia.”
Dr Mangeni urged the Zambian government to request for a safeguard if the country wants to protect the local milk industry.
“If Zambia does not want to import milk and milk products from Kenya, the Zambian government is free to ask for a safeguard from Comesa to protect and limit the importation of the commodities to ensure that the local milk producers and suppliers are not suppressed,” he was quoted saying.
A Kenyan government delegation visited Zambia early this year for three days to try and unlock the long standing non-tariff barrier (NTB) between the two countries affecting milk and palm oil.
The team led by Trade PS Chris Kiptoo held bilateral talks with Zambian counterparts and later paid a courtesy call on the Comesa secretariat.
In his brief to the Comesa team, Dr Kiptoo attributed the 13 year stalemate to the absence of a common regional regulations that guide the import and export of the various commodities across borders.
“A Comesa standard would help producers to come up with uniform products that can sell across the borders in the region and beyond,” said the Trade PS.
Dr Kiptoo added that the gap had left member states to use their own standards, which were in inconsistent with their trading partner states.
Under Article 61 of the Comesa Treaty, safeguard measures can be taken for domestic industries to protect them against international competition until they become mature and stable.
Dr Mangeni said the milk and palm oil hurdle was the last two of the remaining four unresolved NTBs in the region.
He said 96 per cent of all reported NTBs had been resolved and expressed optimism that these would be put to rest this year.