UGANDA – After years of economic disputes with its East African neighbors, Uganda is expanding its hunt for a market for its milk to northern Africa.

On his visit to Algeria last week, Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni reached an agreement with host Abdelmadjid Tebboune, the president of Algeria, to increase trade in agricultural goods, notably dairy products, and to increase cooperation in areas such as animal health.

When in Algiers, President Museveni reportedly indicated that he believed Algeria and the East African Community working together might build a powerful cluster for economic development.

Frank Tumwebaze, Uganda’s minister of agriculture, has claimed this will provide local farmers and milk processors access to new customers.

“They will buy our powdered milk, coffee and bananas. We shall in turn buy from them animal health drugs and others. To our farmers, worry not anymore about the market for our dairy.,” Tumwebaze said.

Museveni’s trip to Algeria comes on the heels of mixed reactions from Kenya which recently banned imports of Ugandan powdered milk to protect domestic suppliers only to reverse its decision less than a week later.

“I am delighted to inform the dairy industry in Uganda that the ban on milk products has been suspended,” said Rebecca Kadaga, Uganda’s first deputy prime minister and minister for the East African Community Affairs.

Kenyan Senior Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Harry Kimtai supposedly announced the suspension of the prohibition in a letter dated March 14.

“Take note that, importation of products under the East African Community protocol refers to goods being imported from outside the East African Community while goods traded within EAC are referred to as transfers,” the letter read in part.

“The stoppage issued through Kenya Dairy Board letter ref KDB/MD/SED/1VOL.5/58 dated March 6 is hereby suspended to allow for the dairy industry (imports and exports) to regulations 2021 to apply accordingly.”

When President William Ruto came into office, he claimed that cheaper milk imports from Uganda would be allowed and that Kenyan milk would be prepared for the global market.

The decision to ban milk however highlighted once again the risk of depending on the Kenyan market which could be closed anytime by authorities seeking to protect their local producers.

Kenya is not the only East African country to close its market to Ugandan milk. It is reported that in 2017, Tanzania similarly instituted a tax on Ugandan milk.

A look towards the North would therefore prove key in cushioning the country from erratic and protectionist policies from its partners in the East Africa community.

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