By David Mugabe
Kenyan officials are scheduled to visit Uganda to try and resolve the trade standoff which has seen about 320 metric tonnes of sugar imports from Uganda denied entry into Kenya.
Silver Ojakol, the commissioner for external trade in the trade ministry on Monday said the Kenyan authorities had called, saying they would send a mission to Uganda for further verification of Ugandan sugar.
“We shall go to Lugazi, Kakira, Majuge and GM Sugar and then we shall go on with them to Busia where the sugar is,” said Ojakol.
Ojakol clarified that about 320 tonnes or about 11 trucks of sugar are currently held at the Kenyan border.
“Because of elections, they were unable to come this week but we have spoken to them and possibly they will come next week,” said Ojakol.
Available information indicates that the Kenya Revenue Authority issued instructions to their customs officials to levy full taxes on imported sugar from Uganda on the basis that the samples they drew do not conform to the ones produced from Uganda.
“We think it is paranoia. Production trends are changing and Uganda’s production base is increasing,” said Ojakol.
The standoff again highlighted the mutual suspicion, fight for territorial economic dominance and failure to adhere to agreed trade agreements that bedevil trade between the two states and the wider East Africa.
The sugar glitch follows another one late last year when about 600 containers of sugar and 2,000 vehicles were held up at Mombasa when Kenyan authorities unilaterally instituted a transit cash bond.
Recently, Zambian authorities slapped import duty on Kenya goods in response to the latter’s refusal to open doors for sugar from the southern African country. It is this formula that local authorities are promising to use and follow suit.
“We will be making these proposals to the minister soon,” said a senior official.
Uganda’s total sugar production is at about 300,000 tonnes annually.
The unilateral declaration by Kenya also brought into question the effectiveness of the EAC secretariat and how seriously signed protocols are honoured.
“They are not a very transparent partner. A lot of their products enter here duty free,” said Ojakol in an earlier interview.
Last week, Uganda’s trade ministry officials cited the example of rice, which Kenya imports from Pakistan at 35% despite the common external tariff that spells out that rice from outside EAC is taxed at 75%.
“This (rice) is brought into Kenya, re-bagged and exported into Uganda,” Ojakol noted.
Uganda has been playing the “nice boy” but sources say this is changing, with both revenue and trade officials now preparing to table a list of Kenyan products that should be subjected to higher import duty.