Exports to Tanzania rose by the highest margin, outpacing other top buyers of Kenya's goods in the first five months of the year, fresh statistics show, as trade relations begin to improve between the two states.
Dar es Salaam ordered goods worth Sh10.54 billion between January and May, 28.58 per cent more than the same period in 2017, data released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) last week indicates.
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By comparison, Pakistan which has remained at the top of the list, ordered goods (mainly tea) worth Sh23.07 billion, a 7.11 per cent drop compared to a similar period last year.
Similarly, Netherlands whose orders (mainly cut flower) rose by 13.45 per cent to Sh21.65 billion remained the second-largest importer of Kenyan goods, beating Uganda whose bill dropped 2.76 per cent to Sh21.31 billion.
Other top export destinations include the UK, which overtook the US during the period to become Kenya's fourth-largest market ordering goods valued for Sh17.57 billion or a 12.93 per cent jump as the American order book thinned 7.65 per cent to Sh17.13 billion.
The data comes hardly a fortnight after Kenyan Trade PS Chris Kiptoo and his Tanzanian counterpart Elisante ole Gabriel issued a joint statement on July 5 indicating that months of bilateral meetings over a 10-year market access impasse had yielded a breakthrough.
Trade relations between the two countries had been souring over the years due to tariff and non-tariff barriers, hurting the flow of goods which had dipped to a 10-year low last year.
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President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Tanzanian counterpart John Magufuli had in February last year ordered the two bureaucrats to solve the trade disputes.
The most recent spats, which are being resolved, involved exportation of textiles from Export Promotion Zones and sugar confectionery.
Tanzania had denied duty-free market access for Kenyan-made confectionery on suspicion of use of zero-rated industrial sugar and textiles, which enjoy tax incentives, arguing this had tilted competition in favour of Kenyan goods.
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"We are making progress. There's now improved relations between us and Tanzania. There's an open channel. I can call the (Tanzanian) PS, he can also call me any time and resolve issues," Dr Kiptoo said in a recent interview. "I have really focused on this from last year... although there are other issues beyond us because they relate to other institutions."