24 January 2014

East Africa: Harmonised Standards to Boost EAC Grain Trade

Nairobi — Grain trade in the East Africa Community (EAC) is expected to grow following the introduction of harmonised standards that will be used in the region.

The Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) Chairman Judah Bett said on Friday that the move will allow verification of grain produce in respective countries and avoid the current delays at border points during export.

Bett says this will also reduce the losses incurred by traders when their products are rejected at various borders when they don't meet the required standards.

"For example a person who wants to buy maize from Rwanda can order the commodity while here and it will come to Kenya safely. This is because the maize will be checked using similar grades and standards that our Kenya Bureau of Standards will use. This is a great step for us in this sector," Bett said during a stakeholders meeting in Nairobi.

The forum brought together over 60 leaders and experts in the grain and food standards to discuss how to have smooth implementation and their impact to the sector.

The new grades and standards were approved by the East Africa Council of Ministers in November last year and gazetted into law on December 6.

"Some of the harmonised standards range across the issues of checking moisture content in grain, quality, type of the grains, infection by disease like aflatoxin among others," Bett said.

The adoption and implementation of these standards is mainly aimed at promoting fair trade and enhance transparency for increased trade in staple foods, promote trade in quality grains and enhance adoptions of structured trading systems.

The rules are also aimed at generating natural performance where grain processors who pay a premium for higher quality products can eliminate unnecessary costly additional processing steps.

Producers on the other hand who meet the quality standards will be rewarded with higher prices and long term contracts from governments and private firms.

Additionally the standards are expected to improve food safety and hygiene which, he said, has been a concern in the region.

Meanwhile Bet said EAGC is currently taking stock of the grain available in all the EAC members to ensure there is enough supply.

"We want to see that going forward we have maize going to the countries with deficiency from those with surplus," Bett said.

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