KELLY NJOMBO, Livingstone
THE Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) plans to engage the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Zambian government to discuss and look at ways to unlock barriers that restrict Kenya from exporting milk and milk products to Zambia due to a conflict over standards.
Zambia has rejected Kenya’s milk, saying it has a high level of bacteria that is beyond the country’s required standards, which allows total bacteria count (TBC) of 200,000 while Kenya follows the international benchmark of one million TBC.
COMESA director for trade customs and monetary affairs Francis Mangeni said experts from FAO the ministries of Commerce, Trade and Industry, and also Agriculture are expected to meet to sort out the issue.
Dr Mangeni told journalists on Friday during the fourth CCC regional sensitisation workshop for business reporters’on provisions and application on COMESA competition regulations and trade developments within the common market.
“It’s about time the issue was finally resolved as it has been on-going for the past 13 years.
“Out of 200 bilateral conflicts under the Free Trade Area agreement that COMESA has been handling, only four have not been resolved of which the Kenya and Zambia issue is among them. As COMESA, we plan to engage international experts to meet with the Zambian government to find possible ways to resolve the conflicts that blocked Kenya export milk and milk products to Zambia,” he said.
Dr Mangeni urged the Zambian government to request for a safeguard if the country wants to protect the local milk industry.
Under Article 61 of the COMESA Treaty, safeguard measures can be taken for domestic industries to protect them against international competition until they become mature and stable.
He said there is also need to extremely assess some of the bilateral agreements before putting them into effect, as they are a threat to local industries, thereby affecting revenue collection and job creation.
“If Zambia does not want to import milk and milk products from Kenya, the Zambian government is free to ask for a safeguard from COMESA to protect and limit the importation of the commodities to ensure that the local milk producers and suppliers are not suppressed,” Dr Mangeni said.