NAIROBI. — The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) plans to mediate between Kenya and Zambia trade dispute, officials said yesterday.
Francis Mageni, COMESA Director for Trade Customs, told journalists in Nairobi that Zambia has prevented milk and palm oil exports from Kenya over health standards and rules of origins respectively.
“We are working closely with officials from Kenya and Zambia in order to resolve the issue in order to promote intra-regional trade,” Mageni said during the Fourth COMESA Heads of Customs Sub-Committee meeting.
Mageni said Zambia has rejected milk imports from Kenya because it contains a total bacteria count beyond the maximum levels permitted in Zambia.
“It has been argued by Kenya that whatever the bacterial count, milk that has gone through the ultra heat treatment (UHT) kills all pathogens making it safe for human consumption,” Mageni added.
In order to unlock the trade impasse, scientists from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization have also been consulted to determine if Kenya’s milk is safe for Zambian consumers.
The director said that whether the trade dispute will be resolved hinges on the COMESA member states but there is no set deadline.
“Timelines are good to gauge progress or achieve results but there are certain things if you fix timelines you set up yourself for failure,” he added.
The COMESA official said that Zambia officials have already being invited to inspect the safety of Kenya’s milk value chain in order to find a holistic solution.
Zambia has also imposed restrictions on Kenyan palm oil exports because it doubts whether they have enough local content to get preferential access into the Zambia market.
Mageni said that COMESA has facilitated Zambian officials to visit Kenyan palm oil production facilities to confirm if the edible oils are produced in Kenya.
He said the trading bloc has managed to eliminate over 150 Non Tariff Barriers (NTB) between the member states over the past two decades.
He noted that 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. – Xinhua