What next for Tanzania maize after Kenya ban?

Sunday March 07 2021
maize pic1

Trucks loaded with maize from Tanzania parked at the Namanga border in this picture take in March 06 2021 . Photo| Filbert Rweyemamu

By Rosemary Mirondo
By Louis Kalumbia

Dar es Salaam. The government yesterday said it hasn’t received official communication from Kenya on the decision to ban maize importation to the East African Community (EAC) member state.

This follows an internal letter by the Kenya’s Agriculture and Food Authority which is ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives communicating the decision to the commissioner of customs at the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

The letter says according to the authority’s surveillance of food imported to Kenya from Tanzania and Uganda has revealed presence of higher levels of mycotoxins that are consistently beyond safety limits.

Mycotoxins particularly aflatoxins and fumonisins are known to be casinogenic, saying over the years acute and chronic aflatoxin related illness cases have been recorded in Kenya including deaths, according to the letter.

“We wish to bring to your attention that Agriculture and Food Authority has stopped any further imports of maize into Kenya with immediate effect,” reads the letter, adding.

“The Republic of Kenya is however committed to facilitating safe trade with her trading partners and look forward to working closely with all stakeholders to address the concern.”

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But, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Agriculture Gerald Kusaya told The Citizen that no official communication has been availed to the country.

Mr Kusaya also questioned that even if the communication would have reached the country, the pending issue would be where the tests that discovered presence of mycotoxins took place.

“We reserve further comments pending receiving official communications,” he said over the phone.

The head of Government Communications at the ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Mr Emmanuel Buhohela said the docket hasn’t received any official communication from Kenya.

Deputy Agriculture minister Hussein Bashe arrived at the Namanga border yesterday to follow up KRA’s decision to ban trucks ferrying maize to the neighbouring country.

Mr Bashe who was accompanied by the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) director general Yussuf Ngenya said despite the fact that no official communication has been made to the country he has confirmed that the social media reports that violate bilateral trade relations were true.

“The ministry of Agriculture is looking on the matter with great seriousness. We are waiting for formal complaint from Kenya in accordance with procedures,” he said.

He said even in the event of one or two incidents the Kenyan government should not draw conclusions to the entire maize industry without involving a wide range of institutions that should communicate during challenges.

He said since Tanzania and Kenya are EAC members their differences had to be resolved through procedures governing the regional body instead of tarnishing the image of Tanzania’s produce.

“Our Kenyan colleagues should take world-renowned measures that if they take a sample in one consignment and find a problem that is serious they have a responsibility to write to us (None Compliance Note) indicating who the load is and country/place of origin for further management and actions,” he said.

For his part, Mr Ngenya said no official complaints have been received from Kenya about the quality of maize from Tanzania according to cooperation procedures between the two countries.

“It is a common practice to provide official information when there are challenges caused by the quality of products, but no reports have been submitted so far,” he said.

Mr Rafael Augustino an agent at the Namanga border said on Friday that 15 trucks loaded with maize that had crossed to the Kenyan border had been restricted to continue with the journey.

He said the move would increase the cost of doing business if drivers will continue to stay at the border contrary to earlier plans.