COMESA to mediate milk and palm oil trade dispute between Kenya and Zambia

KENYA – Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) plans to mediate a trade dispute between Kenya and Zambia over long-standing barrier on milk and palm oil exports, reports Lusaka Times.

Speaking to journalists in the capital Nairobi, COMESA Director for Trade Customs Francis Mageni said Zambia has prevented milk and palm oil exports from Kenya over health standards and rules of origins respectively.

Zambia claims milk from Kenya contains total bacteria count beyond the maximum levels permitted in Zambia but the former on the other hand maintains that ultra-heat treatment (UHT) subjected to the milk kills all pathogens making it safe for human consumption.

In addition to the intervention by the regional trade bloc, consultation is being carried out with scientists from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization to determine the safety of the Kenyan commodity for Zambian consumers.

“We are working closely with officials from Kenya and Zambia in order to resolve the issue in order to promote intra-regional trade,” said Mr. Mageni during the Fourth COMESA Heads of Customs Sub-Committee meeting.

“Timelines are good to gauge progress or achieve results but there are certain things if you fix timelines you set up yourself for failure.”

Zambia has also put restrictions on the Kenyan palm oil exports questioning whether they had enough local content to get preferential access into the Zambia market.

Mageni noted that Zambian officials have been invited to inspect both the safety of Kenya’s milk value chain and palm oil production facilities to confirm if the edible oils are produced in Kenya.

Over the past two decades, the trading bloc has managed to eliminate over 150 Non-Tariff Barriers (NTB) between the member states.

According to him, the most difficult NTBs to remove is where influential players who own industries encourage their government to put in place barriers that will shield domestic industry from foreign competition.

In a bid to play safe in the regional trade and in a ‘protectionism’ verge, Zambia is yet to relax its rules on the importation of wheat flour from other Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states.

The maintained such strict laws claiming they look to protect and benefit the local economy.

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