KAMPALA — Poultry farmers in Ugandan are counting unimaginable losses after Kampala’s biggest regional trading partner, Kenya banned all poultry products from their market under unclear circumstances.
Uganda’s poultry products join a list of imports banned from entering the Kenyan market in recent month as per the letter seen in circulation indicating that the Kenyan government has stopped the exportation of poultry products to Kenya from Uganda, ostensibly to protect its local markets.
Local poultry farmers are already feeling the pinch with those who have been relying on exporters to buy their eggs now stuck with their produce.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday in Kampala, farmers under their umbrella organization, the Poultry Association of Uganda (PAU) asked President Museveni to urgently intervene and discuss with his Kenyan counterpart, President Uhuru Kenyatta over latest trade row.
Ugandan farmers have since dismissed talk of protecting local market as “selfish and uncalled for because Kenya is biggest beneficiary going by balance of trade between two trading partners”.
Peter Ssenkungu, the General Secretary PAU said government especially the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Trade haven’t done enough to protect interests of Ugandan farmers and traders in the region.
He said farmers and sector traders have engaged both the Ministry of Trade and Ministry agriculture but nothing if value to them has happened.
“We need urgent help because we deal with perishable goods,” he told reporters.
“Government and other agencies haven’t helped us. Ministers are sleeping on the job and that’s so sad. We need them to intervene in this situation. We help as early as yesterday.”
“Our markets have been closed, trucks have been impounded. If a Ugandan truck is impounded in Kenya, it is fined upto UGX 32 million,” Ssenkungu explained, adding:
“If we’re not supported, the sector is going collapse. If we invested in the sector and there’s no market, people are going go bunkrupt and Banks are going to take people’s property”.
Uganda exports upto 70 percent of poultry of all products to Kenya. Only 20 percent is consumed locally. The remaining 10% is exported to South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.
“We are constrained by non support from government. We used to have something called Uganda Export Promotions Board but we don’t whether its still exists.” He added.
Mr. Charles Jaggwe, a poultry farmer who is counting loses said: “We are now worried with this also coming up. If you put up something like closing off borders it means the demand for eggs from such a farm is going to reduce. For example, if you produce 100 trays plus, it means you won’t sale any and won’t be able to maintain business. ”
He also explains that before the ban on poultry products, he used to earn 4.5 million shillings daily but his revenues have dropped to less than UGX.90000.
“Automatically the daily income has gone down because the demand for eggs has consequently gone down.”
Mr. JB Wasswa, a poultry farmer, based in Mpigi, said the sector has held the economy for a long period of time by buying maize, brand, employing people but the price of feeds and other inputs is high up there.
Siraje Sserunkuma, a leader in the poultry association says this is going to have an impact on poultry because the ultimate price of chicken has already slowed so low.
“We need government to act. We need them to have talks to help us reduce the effect this is already having on our famers and the whole country.
Industry experts say, Kenya’s behavior shows that protectionisms is still in existence even when regional heads of state are advocating for economic integration.
The latest hostilities began brewing in December 2019, when Kenya stopped importing Ugandan milk. In July 2020, the country followed up with a ban on Ugandan sugar, contravening an earlier agreement to increase Uganda’s sugar exports to Kenya.
These moves came as Uganda stepped up its capacity to manufacture and process goods traditionally imported from Kenya.
A weak currency was also making Ugandan goods more competitive.
Kenya denied Ugandan lawmakers’ charges that it was acting to protect its local markets, insisting that it was suspicious of the quality of the Ugandan exports and doubted whether the country met food safety control standards.
The authorities also confiscated Uganda’s milk exports including milk powder and long-life milk for “verification checks.”
Observers have pointed out that the restrictions go against a Customs Union Protocol established by the East African Community (EAC) single market.
Both countries are part of the EAC alongside Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan.
Another concern is that the trade row has also led to a rise in non-tariff barriers between the EAC member states.
As other observers have pointed out, the uncertainty caused by the ongoing spate of trade bans could eventually undermine the region’s investment profile, damaging trade and the wider East African economy.
“Put yourself in the shoes of an investor who set up in the region because he heard the presidents and other bureaucrats say East Africa was a single market and investment destination, but then later finds that for unofficial reasons, he cannot access half of that market,’’ Mr. Ssenkungu said.
Current tensions aside, the economies of the two African Great Lakes countries are tightly interwoven.
Kenya is Uganda’s top trading partner in Africa.
Over the last 24 years, Ugandan exports to Kenya have steadily increased at an annualized rate of 12.7 percent — up from US$16.1 million (€13.3 million) in 1995 to US$282 million (€233 million) in 2019 — mainly due to increased exports of maize, milk, and sugar.
Likewise, Uganda is Kenya’s leading export destination in Africa, accounting for 28.6 percent of Kenya’s total exports on the continent in 2019.
Key Kenyan exports to Uganda include refined petroleum, palm oil, iron, and salt.
Trade between the two countries has grown since the signing of the East African Common Market Protocol in 2010, which allows the free movement of goods, people, labor, services, and capital between EAC member states.
Intra-EAC trade, while low compared to regional economic communities outside Africa, is the highest among trade blocs in Africa, accounting for 19.35 percent of exports.
But as a result of the ongoing trade tensions among member states, the trade opportunities that accrue to EAC integration aren’t being exploited.
Recently, Kenya and Uganda have sought ways to repair frayed relations.
In late April 2021, officials announced they had hammered out a plan to resolve some issues in the dispute, following a visit by Kenyan trade ministers to Kampala