Trucks ferrying maize from Tanzania that had been stuck at the Namanga border following a ban on importation of grains have finally been flagged off for entry into the country.
The move follows a directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta on May 5, to the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure stocks lying at the border are cleared within the next two weeks.
Kenya had in March banned the importation of maize from Uganda and Tanzania over rising concerns of aflatoxin levels in the grains and imposed stringent measures to ensure compliance.
Among the measures set by the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) that resulted in the trade impasse include: requirement for the consignment to meet the maximum permissible aflatoxin levels of 10 parts per billion, a basis upon which maize from Tanzania and Uganda were barred from entering Kenya.
Others are; registration of all importers through the AFA’s IMIS system and presentation of a copy of the certificate of registration to the inspector at the border point.
Traders were also required to issue certificate of conformity from a competent authority in the exporting country as evidence of the safety of the consignments.
President Kenyatta early in the week held a joint session with Kenya and Tanzanian business community in a bid to unlock the stalemate which had threatened trade relations between the two countries.
The meeting was also attended by Tanzania President Samia Suluhu, who was on a two-day visit to Kenya.
And on Friday, Agriculture CS Peter Munya flagged off the lorries at the Namanga border and urged all government agencies to work together to avoid duplication and ensure that all safety measures are met.
Munya noted that Kenya was keen on maintaining trade relations between the two countries by facilitating seamless movement of goods and services without unnecessary restrictions.
“We have agreed that all government agencies should work together to ensure that there are no undue delays and unnecessary barriers imposed on either side,” said Munya.
The CS added that once testing of the grains is done in the importing country and a certificate of conformity issued then the consignment will not be subject to any further analysis.
“A certificate of Conformity is meant to certify safety of the consignment and indicates that the aflatoxin levels complies with the maximum required levels. Once a trader acquires it from the country of export, the consignment will not be tested again in the import country,” he said.
Traders at the border town welcomed the relaxing of the trade restrictions adding that the ban on the maize importation had adversely affected their business.
One of them Stanley Njuguna, said duplication of requirements from the two countries had resulted in delays and he was glad that the issue had been ironed out amicably.
Another resident of Namanga town Hassan Suleiman noted that the ban on maize importation had resulted in an increase in the price of maize at the town with a 90kg bag currently selling at Sh 2800 up from 2600 before the ban.
According to data from the Agriculture Ministry, maize imports from Uganda and Tanzania dropped by 73 per cent in March as a result of the ban with 637,489 bags of maize being imported to the country in February compared to 146,707 bags in March after the ban was imposed.
Uganda recorded the largest share of maize imports at 437,000 bags compared to Tanzania’s 159,480 bags.