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Kenya rules out blocking cheaper imports from East Africa countries

Chris Kiptoo
Trade Principal Secretary Chris Kiptoo. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

Kenya will not intervene in the alleged influx of cheaper products, including eggs from East African countries into the Kenyan market, amid the increasing pressure from traders, farmers and manufactures who want the government to tighten the noose around the imports.

Trade Principal Secretary Chris Kiptoo says the East Africa common market protocol allows for free movement of goods, services, labour and capital within the region, and the government would only intervene if the imported products are found to be unsafe or dumped goods.

On Monday, poultry farmers from Wangige market in Kiambu held a demonstration to push the government to ban the eggs alleged to be from Uganda, which they said are sold for about Sh180 per tray, way below the Sh300-330 it is sold at in Kenya.

The government, however, maintains that it has not yet found evidence of dumping or a breach of health safety standards.

Victor Kiprop spoke to the PS about the egg imports and issues around trading and integration in east Africa.

POULTRY FARMERS ARE DECRYING AN INFLUX OF CHEAP EGGS FROM TANZANIA AND UGANDA THAT HAVE CAUSED GLUT IN THE MARKET AND ENDANGERED THEIR BUSINESSES. WILL THE GOVERNMENT INTERVENE?

No. Kenya is at the forefront of ensuring that we subscribe to our commitments to the World Trade Organisation (WT0). We are also very active members of the East African Community (EAC). We're committed to promoting free trade within east Africa. So, we can only stop goods that are coming to Kenya if they violate the rules and regulations around safety. If we also find that there's an element of dumping, meaning the cost of goods is higher than what they're selling at here, then we have to come in.
But, right now we don't have evidence there is any dumping or that they're any concerns about safety. If we get that evidence we will take action.

IS KENYA THEN BECOMING A VICTIM/ CASUALTY OF ITS OWN STANCE AS A CHAMPION OF FREE TRADE IN THE EAC?

No, Kenya is, in fact, ready to deepen its engagement on regional integration because if you look at our exports we have consistently been performing well in Africa and east Africa. The last numbers I saw for 2017 showed that 57 percent of all the imports of the EAC are from Kenya. So, we dominate. Whereas we have seen the decline in the share of trade where our exports dropped from Sh152 billion in 2012 to Sh131 billion in 2017, that’s also a concern we have noted in other countries and we are addressing within the EAC.

I BET POULTRY FARMERS COULD REALLY CARE LESS ABOUT KENYA’S IMPRESSIVE TRADE FIGURES BUT RATHER IF THEIR EGGS CAN FETCH GOOD PRICES AND IF THEIR MARKET IS BEING DISTORTED BY CHEAPER IMPORTS.

I want tell Kenyans that we live in a very competitive world and if you get bananas, mangoes or avocados from Uganda that are cheaper and meet safety standards we, as a government, say buy those products, because we are in a customs union, free movement of goods.

East Africans must benefit from consuming goods from East Africa.
Our focus should only be being competitive in the production of eggs.

THE EAC REGION IS LARGELY MADE UP OF LOW INCOME COUNTRIES, MEANING FOR A HUGE PART OF THE POPULATION, PRICE WILL ALWAYS COME AHEAD OF OTHER FACTORS LIKE QUALITY. THIS LEAVES A GAP FOR SUBSTANDARD PRODUCTS TO ENTER THE MARKET.

I want to assure Kenyans, manufacturers, traders, and farmers, that we are alert to make sure that we don't face unfair competition from products coming from other countries.

Much as we promote free trade within east Africa, we will not allow substandard goods, counterfeited goods or dumped goods. We have made good progress in setting up the trade remedy agency that will deal with these issues, and it will be fully operational by December.

However, Kenyans need to prepare to accept genuine products because we believe in free trade, we cannot talk about exports and we are keen to block imports.

EAST AFRICA REMAINS THE MOST INTEGRATED REGION IN AFRICA. THE REGION, HOWEVER, HAS ITS OWN FAIR SHARE OF CHALLENGES, INCLUDING NON-TARIFF BARRIERS (NTBS) AND DISPUTES ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF AGREED POLICIES. HOW FAR ARE THE PARTNER STATES IN RESOLVING THESE ISSUES?

In the last summit we had two weeks ago, we reviewed the progress and realised that we have been able to resolve 45 NTBs, 17 remained but they are on course.

We only have two chronic issues between Kenya and Tanzania; tobacco and confectionery.

We agreed that in March we are going to have a meeting in Dar es Salaam, led by Trade ministers and principal secretaries of Kenya and Tanzania to resolve not only the two chronic issues but also the others that we are working on.
KENYAN TRADERS ACCUSE OF PLAYING ‘HARDBALL’ WHEN IT COMES TO IMPLEMENTING THE EAC COMMON MARKET PROTOCOL. WILL KENYA RETALIATE?

Retaliation is always an option that we or any country will use at the appropriate time. Given the leadership provided by the heads of States, we think that we are making progress and when the time comes when we must retaliate, we will.

For now, we’re confident we will resolve these issues.

THE ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT (EPA) BETWEEN THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE EAST AFRICA COMMUNITY IS YET TAKE OFF AS ONLY RWANDA AND KENYA HAVE RATIFIED IT. DOES KENYA HAVE A PLAN B?

The EU market is as important as the EAC market; we will always act to safeguard our interest.

Having ratified the agreement in 2016, we reached out to the European Union and explained our position, and the EU allowed us to continue accessing the market under regulation 1529.

So that was our plan B and it worked.

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