Manufacturers issue ultimatum, demand retaliation against Kenya

Lato milk products have been some of the products that have been blocked from entering Kenya.  PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Disadvantaged. Kenya’s trade blockades, according to UMA, have disadvantaged Ugandan exports to Kenya, dropping from $190m last year to a projected $73m this year, which has put 114,810 jobs at risk, while Kenya exports continue to flourish, increasing from $1.1b in 2017 to $1.2b last year.  

Manufacturers have given government up to or before Christmas to come up with retaliatory measures against Kenya, which they accuse of unfairly blocking a number of Ugandan products from its market. 

In a statement released yesterday, manufacturers, under Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA), also expressed frustration “over government’s inability to decisively resolve the unfair trade practices subjected to Uganda by Kenya in blatant disregard to the EAC common market commitments”, noting the statement was a culmination of untold frustration by government in the pursuit of equity from EAC partner states. 

“Yes, Uganda believes in regional integration. However, Uganda must benefit from the integration. UMA thus demands that government of Uganda changes tactics to retaliate against partner states that breach the EAC Common Market Protocol. UMA expects action before Christmas Day,” the statement reads in part.

Speaking in a media briefing yesterday, Mr Daniel Birungi, the UMA executive director, said it was unfair that Uganda continues to play second fiddle and acting as a supermarket for other countries yet its products are blocked from entering countries that benefit from its market. 

A number of goods, he said, key among them; milk, sugar, poultry and beef products, among others have been blocked particularly from entering Kenya with claims that are not well explained.

For instance, he said, Uganda currently has a sugar surplus but cannot easily be exported to Kenya, which defeats the whole idea of economic integration, which  Uganda is passionate about as a country . 

“There will always be a reason to bar our products from entering Kenya and in some cases Tanzania,” he said, noting that more than 115,000 farmers involved in the dairy sector were at risk after Kenya blocked milk exports from Uganda. 

Is the statement, UMA also highlighted a January 2020 protest note, in which government had protested the seizure and blocking of milk exports but has not yielded any action. 

According to UMA, the protest note has to date remained un-replied to and “prior efforts at the level of heads of states to resolve the trade issues between Kenya and Uganda [have had] minimal success since Kenya has consistently breached commitments while Uganda continues to play second fiddle”. However, previously, when manufacturers have demanded for retaliation, government has poured cold water on such demands, noting it is unhealthy. 

In February, while reacting to retaliatory demands against Kenya, President Museveni said there would be no retaliation, noting any existing issues would be resolved through dialogue.

Ugandan manufacturers, especially those involved in the export market, have suffered at the hands of EAC partner states, which have continuously blocked entry of some goods without explanation. 

For instance, Tanzania last year blocked Uganda’s sugar from entering its market while Kenya has imposed a ban on Uganda’s milk, sugar and poultry products exports.