By Prossy Nandudu
The absence of regional harmonised standards among staple foods producers is one of the constraining factors of regional grain trade.
The situation has forced buyers and traders to set their own standards in order to create the producer-buyer relationship leading to inconsistencies regarding grades and standards from country to country within the region.
This is according to study conducted by the Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) and the USAID East Africa Trade HUB (EARTH) that was presented to stakeholders at a three-day regional meeting, taking place at Imperial Golf View Hotel, in Entebbe.
“This often marginalises producers, drives down farm gate prices and drives up costs for traders and processors making locally produced goods uncompetitive,” added the statement.
Stakeholders attending the meeting are expected to consider the EAS 2013 staple foods standards and how it can be implemented so it can be applied by the concerned parties to increase intra-regional trade.
Gerald Masila from the Eastern Africa Grain Council explained that the process of coming up with the EAS 2013 staple foods kicked off in 2009 with financial support from USAID EARTH leading a standard for 22 staple foods.
However since the EAS 2013 staple foods standard was formulated, there have been limitations in the implementation process because majority of the end users are still not aware of the standard.
The standards have two specific areas of focus which include quality of the foods and safety for the consumer.
“Under safety, the standard seeks to protect the consumer against issues like contamination and diseased grains while for quality, the standard is looking at how clean the grain is,” explained Masila.
According to Masila since the formulation, there have been challenges in the implementation process adding that the, “The meeting will come up with ways of implementing the standard by harmoniSing all equipment such that whatever is used in Uganda should be able to give the same results in other countries where the standard is applied,” added Masila.
In the meeting a memorandum of understanding was signed between the EAGC Uganda Office and Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) with an aim of popularising the standard among stake holders along the entire value chain.