Trade war looms as Kebs blocks Italian spaghetti


The spaghetti row may strain relations. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) has blocked entry of Italian pasta like spaghetti in a blockade that could trigger a trade dispute between Nairobi and Italy.

Kenyan Foreign Ministry and the Italian Embassy in Nairobi have been dragged into the pasta importation row when Kebs rejected a consignment that was tested by its own agent, SGS-Italy, ahead of shipment.

The standards body refused to re-test the products as requested by the Kenyan importer, Luna Foods Stuff Limited, who offered to foot the costs, insisting that the sampling and testing was done procedurally.

Kebs has since ordered the reshipment of the consignment despite SGS-Italy issuing a pre-export verification of conformity (PVOC) giving the cargo a clean bill of health.

Ferrara, a leading Italian pasta company that sold the consignment to Kenya, in a letter to Kebs and copied to Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Italian Embassy in Nairobi warns that the dispute has the potential of souring business relations between these countries.

“Should the container be reshipped back [sic] to Italy, we fear it will not only sour our business relations with Luna Foods Stuff Limited who are one of our esteemed customers but also our brand name which has been established since 1983,” the Italian firm warned.

“This could also go as far as severing relations between the two countries labelling Italy as an exporter of sub-standard food products to Kenya.”

Kenya imported goods worth Sh19.8 billion from Italy in the nine months to September, and exported Sh3.2 billion worth of products to the European nation. Italy is the largest producer of pasta.

Ferrara accuses Kebs of deliberately sitting on an appeal by Luna Food Stuff, the importer of the pasta lodged on November 14, 2018 to have the products re-tested on grounds of anomalies.

“However, there has been no communication from Kebs as of November 14, 2018 to date and we feel this is deliberately being done to tarnish our brand, country and the entry of our products into the Kenyan market,” the Italian firm said in the letter.

But in a response dated December 20, 2018, Kebs claimed that the consignment tested by SGS Italy failed to conform to local requirements on protein content. “In view of the above failures that rendered the goods substandard, the shipment was rejected and you were directed to re-ship the consignment back [sic] to the country of origin,” Immaculate Odwori said in a letter signed for director of Quality Assurance and Inspection.

“Your request for resampling and re-testing has been given due consideration and it is our opinion that sampling and testing was done procedurally."