Kenya has opened talks with Zambia to unlock a barrier over milk and palm oil exports to the country.
There has been a stalemate between Lusaka and Nairobi for the past 13 years due to a conflict over standards between the two nations.
Zambia has rejected Kenya’s milk, saying it has a high level of bacteria that is beyond the country’s required standards. Zambia allows total bacteria count (TBC) of 200,000 while Kenya follows the international benchmark of one million TBC. “We are launching a fresh bid to unlock a long standing non-tariff barrier affecting trade in milk and palm oil and we are certain of reaching a common ground before the end of the year,” said Trade principal secretary Chris Kiptoo in an interview.
The country also has a problem with Kenya’s palm oil over rules of origin. Kenya imports and processes palm oil and exports surplus. It does not produce its own oil.
Kenya enjoys a trade surplus against Zambia. Latest data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows that the country exported goods worth Sh5.9 billion to Zambia in 2015, against imports worth Sh3.9 billion.
Dr Kiptoo led a trade delegation to Zambia last week for bilateral talks. He called on Comesa, which Kenya and Zambia are members, to come up with a common standard agreeable to all. “We need Comesa standards so that we can start trading again on these items,” Dr Kiptoo said, attributing the stalemate to the absence of a common regional standard that would guide the import and export of commodities in the region.
“Comesa standards would help producers to come up with uniform products that can sell across borders in the region and beyond,” he said.
The PS said there is need for Comesa member states to trade among themselves more than with other countries as this will help boost various industries.