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May 04, 2008

Kenya, Uganda in row over barriers to agricultural trade

A trade row is brewing between Uganda and Kenya over the alleged use of non-trade barriers by authorities in the two countries to block the entry of certain agricultural products into their respective markets.

The issue first came to light late last year when officials in Kampala protested a decision by their counterparts in Nairobi to deny Ugandan poultry breeders export permits that would enable them to sell day-old chicks in the Kenyan market.

Matters took an interesting turn this April when Nairobi’s envoy to Kampala wrote to Uganda’s Trade Minister arguing that an 11-year-old ban on the exportation of Kenyan livestock and associated products to Uganda not only violates the World Trade Organisation’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) agreement, but also contradicts the spirit of the East African Community’s Customs Union.

Kenya’s High Commissioner to Uganda, Japheth Getugi, noted in an April 8 letter to Uganda’s State Minister for Trade, Nelson Gaggawala Wambuzi, that the ban on Kenyan meat and meat products as well as bull semen, was unwarranted because the country had put the necessary safety measures in place.

“Kenya considers the bans on both beef and bull semen as non-trade barriers that must be removed,” wrote Mr Getugi.

However, senior officials in Uganda’s Agriculture Ministry said a committee had been set up to review the ban — not just for Kenya but for all the other countries affected. We are already working on lifting it,” said the Director of Animal Services Dr William Olaho Mukani, who is also the chairman of the Ban Review Committee. “The ban could be lifted in a year’s time.”

Dr Olaho Mukani said the government still had reservations about lifting the ban because of cases of crafty individuals claiming to import livestock products into Uganda from Kenya when they are actually importing them from other disease-infested countries using Kenya as a transit route.

Mr Getugi defended Kenyan livestock in his letter, saying that according to Kenya’s Livestock and Fisheries Development Ministry, the level of safety of Kenyan meat and meat products as stipulated in the country’s Meat Control Act and sanitary measures is consistent with OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) and Codex guidelines on BSE (Mad Cow Disease) and food safety.

Mr Getugi further advised Uganda to note that BSE, which led to the ban on bull semen from Kenya, is classified as a notifiable disease — making it mandatory for the authorities to make any cases public.

“Further, there has not been any scientific proof of transmission of the disease through semen. Kenya considers the ban on beef and bull semen as a non-trade barrier that must be removed,” added the Kenyan diplomat.

While statistics on the quantity of bull semen that Uganda imported from Kenya prior to the ban were not readily available, it has been established that by the time of the ban, Uganda was importing an average of 20,000 straws — measures used during service of an animal — of semen per annum.

The national co-ordinator of Uganda’s Animal Breeding Centre in Entebbe, Dr Nelson Semambo Kiwanuka, said Uganda is currently importing an average of 35,000 straws of semen per annum, mainly from New Zealand and South Africa. He said this was way below the country’s needs.

“There are 3.5 million head of cattle that we can inseminate countrywide, but the actual number that we inseminate is 35,000 every year, so the scope is really wide. Our target is to inseminate at least 50,000 every year, and in the next two years we should have increased the number to half a million,” said Dr Semambo.

It is this potential market that Kenyan breeders are looking to take advantage of should the ban on the export of the country’s livestock and livestock products to Uganda be lifted.

The current beef between the two countries is the latest episode in an evolving trade dispute over agricultural products and livestock. The EastAfrican reported in its February 18-24 issue that the Poultry Association of Uganda had protested Kenya’s continued reluctance to open its market to Ugandan exporters although Kenchick — Kenya’s largest exporter of day-old chicks — was allowed to export freely to the Ugandan market.

In a bid to solve the impasse, Kenya’s Deputy Director of Veterinary Services and Principal Veterinary Officer visited Uganda on November 17–22 to carry out a risk assessment of the two Ugandan poultry firms exporting to Kenya, as well as to assess the state of the country’s veterinary services.

With one Ugandan exporter — Ugachick — saying that it was losing up to Ush18 million ($10,000) a week since it could not export the 15,000 day-old chicks for which it had secured a deal in Kenya, Uganda’s Third Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Community Affairs, Eriya Kategaya, along with the Trade Minister, pursued the matter with their Kenyan counterparts when the release of the report was delayed by four months.

Commenting on the findings by the Kenyan team, Mr Getugi noted that not only did they find the disease reporting systems of the two exporting firms they visited to be inadequate, they also found the legal framework governing operations of hatcheries in Uganda in relation to disease control to be wanting.

“The general finding is that the capacity of the Veterinary Department in disease surveillance is wanting and diagnosis is not adequate. The central laboratory in Entebbe lacks the capacity to deal with most poultry diseases,” he noted.

The Director of Animal Services in Uganda’s Agriculture Ministry, Dr William Olaho Mukani, acknowledged that Uganda’s laboratory had been neglected in the past. He, however, added that it was now being refurbished after the government received funding from the World Bank to improve the country’s preparedness to tackle the Avian influenza (bird flu) epidemic.

“In the restructuring exercise, the laboratory was left out, which was very unfortunate. But we have increased the equipment and refurbished the laboratory after we got funding from the World Bank. In the future, we are planning for the laboratory to get its own separate funding from government,” said Dr Olaho Mukani.

However, Ugandan authorities have threatened to reject the report by the visiting Kenyan veterinary services team on the state of Uganda’s veterinary services. Uganda accuses Kenya of breaching guidelines on confidentiality set by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and of trying to unfairly influence matters by raising them at the political level before they are discussed by the technical experts.

Dr David Kauta Nawa, the Commissioner for Livestock Health and Entomology in Uganda’s Agriculture Ministry, accused his Kenyan counterparts of jumping the gun.

He stated: “The method that they are using to make their submissions is irregular. We are supposed to communicate as veterinary service professionals, study the report and then bring it jointly to the political level, but now the things have started at the political level.

“According to the guidelines given by the OIE, all of us as veterinary service professionals are supposed to act impartially and not to be swayed by political sentiments. But when such a report first goes to the political level, it means they don’t want to work impartially.”

The Kenyan report further noted that Uganda does not have a policy on poultry, meaning that the government does not have a comprehensive plan for monitoring the sector.

Dr Kauta however shot down this argument, saying Uganda did not need a poultry-specific policy since it already had a sector-wide policy.

He said: “We have a disease control policy in this country. What they fear is the spread of diseases, and the policy handles the issue of poultry diseases. So why do they want a poultry policy? Do they now want us to have a separate goat policy, cattle policy, sheep policy? You can’t have a policy on maize, cassava, rice and every other plant under the sun.”

The Kenyan team’s report, according to Mr Getugi, added: “The linkage between the Ugandan government veterinary department and the poultry industry is weak, with a lack of regular inspection and monitoring of poultry industry activities.”

Mukani however said that the problem had been sorted out and that more personnel had been recruited to carry out monitoring.

The report from the Kenyan assessment team further noted that the linkages between the District Veterinary Services and the Directorate of Veterinary Services are weak since the former operate under the local authorities.

“Though the country is strong in terms of veterinary services human capacity, the backing services (laboratory services and vaccines) are weak. Consequently, the country relies on services from South Africa and Makerere University. This is mainly driven by the demands of the poultry firms and not the government/department mandate,” reported Mr Getugi in his letter.

The Kenyan government has now set tough new conditions for their counterparts in Kampala to adhere to if Ugandan poultry breeders are to be allowed to export their products.

The most controversial of the conditions is the requirement that the Kenyan Director of Veterinary Services be granted free access to evaluate Ugandan veterinary services on a biannual basis and at the same time carry out a risk analysis.

Dr Kauta however argued that the issue the Kenyan government was raising as a condition is supposed to be standard practice between countries that are involved in cross-border trade, according to OIE guidelines.

These people are talking what is obvious,” he said.

“The law says any country is free to ask another country to evaluate their services, especially if goods are being imported from that country. Why are they again bringing it up as a condition? Have we ever resisted when they ask to evaluate our services? In fact, we are the ones who wrote to them in the first place to come and inspect our facilities so I don’t know why they are putting it as a condition.”

Dr Kauta said the two countries should be working for a common cause rather than finger-pointing. He said: “We are establishing common trends in the control of animal diseases so the idea of one country going behind our back and saying the services of the other are not good enough doesn’t help. We should be talking of a team at the centre helping all countries to perform together.”

The East African

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