Cross-border aflatoxin alert issued

Namanga border customs and border control manager Sally serem (R) during Principal Secretary, E.A Community Kevit Desai (left) and his entourage tour within Namanga one stop border. Photo Abdi Hussein

By Abdi Hussein

Ministry of East African Community and Regional Development is engaging manufacturers and other regional trade stakeholders to streamline surveillance at Namanga One Stop Border Point (OSBP) to prevent importation of aflatoxin contaminated cereals into the East Africa regional market.

In wake of Covid-19 pandemic, the regional trade has been facing myriad challenges including aflatoxin contamination, with trade partner states incurring colossal losses estimated between  39 to 70 billion US dollars in the last six months.

To address the teething challenges; the ministry convened a stakeholders meeting recently at Namanga border entry attended by local  manufacturers, Custom officials, East African Business Council (EABC) members, transporters, traders and local security team.

The stakeholders’ meeting was prompted by complaints raised by industrialists and other private sector players,  that some foods and food products imported into the country are contaminated with aflatoxin and carcinogenic substances, endangering lives with the private sector incurring huge losses.

Principal Secretary, State Department for East African Community  Dr. Kevit Desai emphasized the need for seamless  safe trade in the region.

Mr Dasai said the region must embrace value addition in free aflatoxin  agriculture produce,food and beverages to tap into the global market.

“The government is seeking public/private partnership to boost regional trade as a post Covid-19 pandemic strategy. Agribusiness constitutes 70 percent of total business within East Africa market. Let our local manufactures embrace farm produce value addition to reap more benefits in global market,” stated Dr.Desai

He said the government will upgrade  the current laboratory at border entry into a Micro toxin laboratory  to increase efficiency in detecting  aflatoxin before cereals are imported into the country.

“We have identified gaps in aflatoxin surveillance, prevention and control and we have come up with mitigation mechanisms to solve the problem at our entry points. We want to improve food and safety, investment and ensure safety of trade and market of agricultural products,” he added.

According to customs department data, about 170 trucks use the Namanga border entry daily with 130 trucks coming in from Tanzania compared to 40 trucks from Kenya to Tanzania. This translate to  170 million US dollar trade  daily across the Namanga border entry, with Tanzania enjoying 130 million US dollar trade compared to Kenya;s  40 million US dollar trade daily.

Kenya mostly imports farm produce including onions, tomatoes and cereals in large volumes. A spot check indicates business nolmacy is returning at border entry with Covid-19 protocols being strictly observed. Tourism sector is also peaking with visitors streaming in at border entry.

Kenya authorities have been on high alert not to allow aflatoxin affected cereals into the country from neighbouring countries. A dozen trucks are said to have been turned away at the border in the last six months. A standoff was witnessed between Kenya and Tanzania authorities over Covid-19 protocols.

Director Kenya Manufacturers Association Bimal Kantaria said East African trade is significant to Kenya economic growth, considering Kenya imports large volumes of raw materials from Tanzania. He challenged the government to ensure the importation of high quality materials.

“Most local  manufacturers have been importing raw materials from Tanzania signifying the importance of regional trade. Its the government responsibility to ensure importation of high quality raw materials and farm produce to support the Big Four agenda realisation,” noted Kantaria. 

On his part, Director East African Business Council (EABC) Peter Mathuki
said Kenya’s export volumes have reduced significantly and called for public private partnership to revive the regional trade. He urged the government to offer stimulus packages to boost Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Agribusiness as post Covid-19 pandemic rescue plan.

Mr Mathuki said Kenya exportation to Tanzania has nosedived from 336 million US dollars in 2019 to 160 million US dollars in 2020. Also imports volumes from Tanzania had dropped from 270 million US dollars to 130 million US dollars in the same period, he added.

“The state must come up with trade revival strategic plan including offering stimulus packages to SMEs and Agri business traders. The revival require holistic approach involving private sector,” stated Mathuki.

According East African Business Council (EABC) data, since March 2020 trade cash flow has decreased significantly within EAC market, with tourism bearing the major brunt of 92 percent followed by logistic sector with 75 percent cash flow cut. Manufacturing and construction sectors have not been spared suffering 46 percent and 40 percent respectively.

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