Agriculture Minister Frank Tumwebaze has said Uganda can no longer afford to be diplomatic as East African states treat it unfairly, taking its liberal approach towards partners for granted.
In response to questions regarding the new quota in which Kenya cut Uganda’s sugar imports under the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa), Mr Tumwebaze wondered why Kenya would be instituting quotes on Uganda’s sugar exports yet the country has a large consumption deficit.
“We are not demanding anything unimaginable but only seeking an honest and fair discussion with our long time trading ally - Kenya - so as to achieve a mutually rewarding position for our people. Talking of quotas of anything of a Ugandan product is even bad enough. Why quotas in the supposedly free East Africa Common Market?” he wondered, noting that even if Kenya allowed Uganda to export all its sugar to its market, its demand would remain unmet.
In a notice last week the Sugar Directorate of Kenya notified traders that it would only allow 18,923 tonnes of sugar imports from Uganda, a reduction from 90,000 tonnes, which had been agreed earlier on in April.
However, in a statement last week Trade Ministry Permanent Secretary Geraldine Ssali disputed the alleged quota reduction, noting that media reports had only considered allocations under the Comesa regime, which had given Uganda an allocation of about 18,923 tonnes for 2021.
“The sugar quota available to Uganda in 2021 under the Comesa Kenya Sugar Safeguard window is 18,923 tonnes. The balance of the 90,000 tonnes annual quota (ie 71,923.36 tonnes) is catered for under the EAC bilateral window,” she said in a statement, noting Uganda had by June exported 31,256.95 tonnes of sugar to Kenya, which were well above the 18,923 tonnes allocated quota.
However, sugar producers under Sugar Manufacturers Association, yesterday said that whereas Kenya had promised to take 90,000 tonnes of Uganda’s sugar, this had never been realised.
Mr Jim Kabeho, the Sugar Manufacturers Association chairman, told Daily Monitor that Kenya had been slow to open up for Uganda’s sugar despite commitments reached in April.
“They promised to take 90,000 tonnes but they [Kenya] have never given it. You see we have only sent 31,256 tonnes and it is already September. We don’t expect any more until may be December,” he said.
Mr Tumwebaze also wondered why restrictions on milk and maize had not been addressed to date even after seeking for a status update in a July 19 letter, which he said has not been responded to two months later.
“I wrote to them a letter putting to them our pleas but no response to date has been got,” he said, noting that government had hoped there was going to be progress on milk and maize discussions after a delegation of Kenyans had visited Uganda, after which everything went mute.
“We had hoped that there was going to be progress on the milk and maize discussions after their delegation visited here and even met our President, but after that everything went mute. Why are they being unfair and taking our liberal approach towards East African partners for granted? We aren’t happy at all and we can nolonger be diplomatic about this,” he said.
In the July letter Mr Tumwebaze had noted that despite a number of efforts aimed at verifying origin of Uganda’s milk, which included a verification exercise conducted by a delegation from Kenya in December last year, the Kenya Dairy Board, had continued to block entry of Uganda’s milk into Kenya, reducing import permits by 8 per cent and 10 per cent in 2020 and 2021, respectively.