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Kenya body behind maize ban stripped of its powers

Sunday May 16 2021
kenya maize pic
By ZEPHANIAH UBWANI

Arusha. Kenya’s regulatory authority behind the recent ban on maize imports from Tanzania has been stripped of its powers.

From now on, the Agriculture and Food Authority (Afa) will be removed from clearing maize imports.

Kenya’s media reported early this week that the move was taken by Agriculture cabinet secretary Peter Munya.

In removing Afa from the clearance chain, the regulator would have no powers to register maize at the border points.

The measure, the ministry explained, would ease clearance of agricultural produce imports, among other things.

Mr Munya added that the Kenyan government would instead rely on the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) on quality assurance.

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“From now on, Afa will not register maize already registered by Kephis,” he insisted during his recent visit to the Namanga border post.

The move comes three months after Afa imposed tough conditions on the import of the cereal from Tanzania and Uganda.

The Kenyan regulator established only eight years ago cited high levels of Aflatoxin, a cancer-causing fungus in the maize.

Most of the grain importers in Kenya had reportedly failed to meet the tough conditions which include testing of the maize and registration.

Afa’s restrictive conditions of maize imports to Kenya were worsened by a recent state visit to Kenya by President Samia Suuhu Hassan.

She and her host President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya directed that maize stocks stuck at the border be cleared within two weeks.

President Kenyatta, in particular, insisted that the stocks be cleared to save traders of the huge losses suffered because of the restrictions.

However, he insisted that cross border trade between the two countries should follow the existing laws and regulations.

Maize importers in Kenya have often been critical of Afa for its restrictions on the Tanzanian exporters they describe as ‘untenable’.

For their part, they claimed they were making losses amounting to $ 200 a day for confinement of their cargo at the Namanga border post.

President Kenyatta said Kenya was committed to seamless bilateral trade with Tanzania through the removal of unnecessary barriers.

The apparent stripping of powers of the Kenyan grain imports regulator became evident during a recent meeting by business stakeholders at Namanga.

Kenyan officials appeared more keen on resumed cross border trade and that Afa should no longer be seen to be the only regulator.

The meeting convened by the East African Community (EAC) was told that truck drivers would be tested only once when crossing borders and not twice.

“They will be tested once at the place of origin. They are only supposed to produce Covid-19 compliance certificates at the border,” the meeting was told.

It was agreed that drivers should no longer be subjected to a day-long stay at the border towns to await Covid-19 testing results.

“Once a trader presents a certificate, we shall clear them right away,” said a Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) official Joseph Muywaywa.

Kenya has been a leading market for maize, East Africa’s staple food for generations with the bulk of the cereals sourced from the northern regions.

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