Uganda: Slow Govt Progress On Milk Export Talks Worry Producers

Milk exporters and private sector players have expressed concern, noting the speed with which government is conducting negotiations for markets reopening is extremely slow and frustrating.

About three months ago, Uganda and Kenya completed talks in which it was agreed that Kenya would verify and clear exportation of milk into the country following months of bickering between the two countries.

The ban is yet to be lifted with producers expressing frustration, amid falling returns and a narrowing market.

Speaking in an interview, Mr Simon Kaheru, Uganda's delegate to the East Africa Business Council, told Daily Monitor that milk exporters, some of whom had gone as far as Zambia, have been frustrated, noting that government should find a quick way of resolving the impasse.

"One of our members had even gone as far as exporting milk to Zambia but has been frustrated by the standoff. As East Africans, we need to acknowledge and address the slow speed of resolution of these issues, because they hold back regional development," he said.

In April a trade delegation from Kenya arrived in Uganda to iron out trade rifts between the two East African member states.

At the end of the meeting, a number of resolutions were made but milk, which had been one of the subjects of the discussions, remains unresolved.

Kenya has for about two years now maintained a ban on Ugandan milk from entering its territory.

Kenyan officials had argued that Uganda was importing milk and repackaging it before it is re-exported to Kenya demanding for verification of the commodity's origin.

So far, two verification exercises, one in December 2019 and another in April, have been conducted but no conclusions have been reached.

Mr Bijoy Varghese, the general manager of Pearl Dairy Farms, which produces Lato told Daily Monitor they had on several occasions inquired about the process from both Kenya and Ugandan officials but nothing has been communicated.

"Nothing has happened yet despite inquiries from the authorities about the progress," he said

Pearl Dairy alone, which was one of Uganda's largest milk exporters to Kenya, lost close to Shs1.1b in the early days of the ban before hugely scaling back on production.

Mr Emmanuel Mutahunga, the Ministry of Trade commissioner for external trade, blamed the slow progress on the lockdown, noting it was difficult to engage stakeholders involved in the milk production and export value chain.

Trade wars

Kenya has had trade related tensions with Uganda going beyond milk.

For instance, early this year Kenya banned import of Uganda's poultry and beef products, noting there was need to protect its farmers and producers.

Earlier, the country had also banned sugar exports from Uganda, saying the country was dumping cheap sugar on its market.

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