KENYA – Kenya and Zambia are at the brink of signing a memorandum of understanding to end the long simmering trade dispute that saw Zambia ban the export of Kenyan milk more than a decade ago.
Although Kenya has enough standards for a variety of industries, according to KEBS Director General Bernard Njiraini, harmonizing the standards to include other nations will ensure that Kenya’s dairy products are available in other markets through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Zambia, one of the top markets for Kenyan milk, banned export of Kenyan milk over safety concerns after processors in the southern Africa country claimed that milk imports exceeded the country’s total bacteria count.
Zambia’s standard allows total bacteria count (TBC) of 200,000 while Kenya’s follows the international benchmark of one million TBC per millilitre.
“Now we are moving to another level of having harmonized standards across Africa so that people from Zambia can access our milk because, sometimes we have disparities in terms of their thresholds in the counts and what we have,” said Njiraini on the sidelines of a food safety lecture held by professors from Washington State University at KEBS headquarters.
To help local producers get access to the market, KEBS has already started talks with Zambian officials on harmonizing milk standards. In due course, the two countries will conclude a Memorandum of Understanding.
“We are now harmonizing standards across Africa through the African Organization for Standardization working together with our African partners to promote trade within Africa,” he added.
KEBS is also targeting to use scientific methods to address cases of aflatoxins and contaminants in order to promote food safety in Kenya through intervention research.
“Intervention research is where we talk to the industry, learn their problems and in a scientific way try to solve the problems through standardization.
“It may be change in a standard or change within their production lines so that they can control the problems and challenges they may have with the end products,” said Dr Joshua Njiru, KEBS Head of Research, Development and Innovation.
KEBS is planning to use scientific methods to identify salmonella and aflatoxins in foods such as chocolates, fruits and those with low moisture content such as milk powder.
Njiraini added that KEBS is also working on standards for fragrant rice with the goal of patenting rice novelty, reports KBC.
The COMESA Council of Ministers has been arbitrating the dispute over the terms of entry for Kenya’s milk exports to Zambia since 2008.
However, milk isn’t the only commodity that has created trade rifts between the two countries. Zambia has for the longest time raised issues with Kenya’s palm oil over rules of origin.
The Southern Africa country stresses that the palm oil doesn’t meet the 35 per cent value-added threshold for raw materials under COMESA’s rules of origin.
Kenya doesn’t grow its own palm trees but instead imports crude palm oil, mainly from Asia and processes it for domestic use while the surplus is exported.
In 2008, trade between the two countries was worth Sh7.3 billion (US$ 60,656,418), with Kenya receiving the larger portion, worth Sh5.5 billion (US$ 45,700,041), according to Business Daily. Over the same period, Zambia gained Sh1.853 billion (US$ 15,396,759) in imports.
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