Traders have welcomed the government’s partial lifting of the ban on trade in poultry and related products from Uganda imposed after an outbreak of avian flu in the neighbouring country in January.
Traders who spoke to Sunday Nation said the ban had adversely affected them, adding that they were almost pushed out of business.
“The government’s move is welcome. The Ugandan government did thorough risk assessment and confirmed there was no avian flu,” said the Eggs Suppliers Union representative at Busia border, Mr Erick Osumba.
Dealers who buy products from the neighbouring country had been complaining that Uganda had lifted its ban, wondering why Kenyan authorities had not followed suit.
In announcing the partial lifting of the ban on Wednesday, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said Kenya had taken the move to safeguard against a potential spread of avian influenza.
“The Uganda Government has been requesting for a lifting of the ban on trade in poultry and poultry products following the successful confinement of Avian Influenza (HPAI) in the original area of infection,” said Mr Bett.
Kenya imposed the ban in January after a highly infectious strain of bird flu was reported in Uganda.
The ban resulted in an acute shortage of eggs and other poultry products, especially in western Kenya.
Traders had complained that the ban was adversely affecting them, especially those who had taken loans.
“We were almost being pushed out of business. We welcome the lift of the ban. We were no longer in a position to pay school fees for our children,” said trader Agnes Nderitu.
Kenya had indicated that it could lift the ban in February after experts from the two countries met to assess the disease outbreak.
The Ugandan government, on more than two occasions through Agriculture Minister Vincent Ssempija, sought to reassure Kenya that it had contained the outbreak, adding that most farms that export eggs to Kenya are located more than 10kms from the quarantined area.
Kenyan traders have been sourcing eggs, day-old chicks and poultry meat from Uganda because they are far cheaper than local products.
A spot check revealed that eggs are imported from Uganda for Sh7 each and sold for Sh15 in Kenya.
Mr Bett said that experts from the two countries were still doing a risk assessment of the avian flu outbreak in Uganda to determine if it has been fully contained before the ban is entirely lifted.
“Both parties acknowledged the danger posed by the disease and the need to work closely in arresting its spread,” said Mr Bett.
During Kenya’s team tour of Uganda in February, Ugandan minister Ssempija urged neighbouring countries not to worry about bird flu, adding that the situation was under control.
He said commercial poultry farms had been placed under strict surveillance.
“These farms are located far from the 10km quarantine radius around Lake Victoria. The farms can produce safe poultry products for local and export markets,” said Mr Ssempija.
More than 32 million chicken in Kenya were said to be at risk of contracting the disease.
Kenya has been on high alert since the viral disease was detected in dead birds worldwide.
After the discovery, the Uganda activated its emergency plan for epidemics control after confirming one strain of the disease — one of three types that affect humans, animals and birds, according to the World Health Organization.
Avian flu is caused by type A strains of the influenza virus. It can be transmitted to human beings, causing severe respiratory infections.
The flu is characterised by a sudden onset of high fever, aching muscles, headache, severe sickness, non-productive cough and sore throat within two to five days, and up to 17 days, of infection.
In the very young, it can lead to pneumonia and death. It affects mainly the nose, throat, bronchi and lungs. It is treatable with an antiviral drug called Tamiflu.
Humans contract the disease through close contact with infected poultry or with objects contaminated by their faecal matter, according to WHO.