Thursday, July 18, 2024

Why maize is causing trade tensions between Kenya and its neighbours

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There was confusion in the East African grain market this week after Kenya banned maize imports from Tanzania and Uganda. The Agriculture and Food Authority said the reason for the ban was that levels of mycotoxins in the maize from the two countries were above safety limits. But in less than a week the Kenyan government appeared to backtrack and announced that it had asked its East African Community trading partners to pass sanitary and phytosanitary standards on farm produce before it reached Kenya. We asked Timothy Njagi Njeru, a development economist and research fellow with a special focus on agricultural development and innovation in sub-Saharan Africa, to shed light on events.

What’s the issue?

Kenya initially imposed the ban because it said grain from Tanzania and Uganda had high levels of mycotoxins.

Mycotoxins are poisonous compounds produced by certain types of moulds that grow on foodstuffs such as cereals and nuts in warm and humid conditions, either before or after harvest. Aflatoxins are among the most poisonous mycotoxins and can grow in the soil as well as on the foodstuffs. Research has shown that mycotoxins can damage DNA and cause cancer in animals.

Under the East African Community’s common market – which all three countries belong to – safe rules have been which set standards for aflatoxins in maize. These vary from one jurisdiction to another. The East Africa Community’s standard is 10 parts per billion, the US’s is 20 parts per billion while the EU standard is four parts per billion. Read more…

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