The government of Uganda has threatened diplomatic action following Kenya’s “unwarranted restrictions on the smooth importation of Uganda’s milk and milk products into Kenya”.
In a note verbale to Kenya’s High Commission on Wednesday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said it is deeply concerned about the illegal seizure to their milk under the Lato brand by Kenyan authorities.
“This has resulted not only into the confiscation of 54,310kg of powder milk valued at USD203, 630and 262, 632 litres of UHT Milk valued at USD157, 106 but also have witnessed a sustained negative campaign against Uganda’s milk and milk products,” the ministry said in the correspondence.
They said the seizers took place between January 2-11.
DCI detectives on January 6 seized contraband Lato milk and milk powder at a depot in Meru town.
There has been an increased supply of cheap milk from Uganda leading local processors to raise concerns on the negative impact it has had on sales.
In his State of the Nation Address on Tuesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta said Kenyan farmers are receiving very low prices for their milk due to the excess supply, “exacerbated by the incursion of powdered milk which is smuggled into Kenya from outside our Eastern Africa region”.
To protect our milk producers from illegal imports, the President directed the National Treasury to impose 16 per cent VAT on milk products that have originated from outside the EAC.
“I have further directed KEBSs, Customs and the DCI to impound any powdered milk or milk products that do not meet Kenyan standards,” Kenyatta said.
In December, Trade Principal Secretary Dr Chris Kiptoo hinted of a proposal to levy 16 per cent duty on dairy products from the neighbouring state as the government moves to curb an influx.
“We have proposed a 16 percent duty that would be levied on Ugandan milk as the government seeks to protect farmers from increased competition,” Dr Kiptoo said after a trip to Kampala.
Uganda further termed as unfounded claims by the Kenyan government that the products are counterfeit, saying they were cleared for entry the Ministry of Agriculture, KRA, Kenya Dairy Boar, Kenya Bureau of Standards and Port health Services.
“The Ministry would like to recall that Uganda also has strategic sectors within her economy which experience high levels of imports from Kenya, but has not taken the route Kenya has taken … At the moment, the government of Uganda is exercising maximum restraint but reserves the right to reconsider this position,” the communication said.
Kenya exports iron and steel, plastics, soap, organic surface agents and detergents and vegetables, oil and fats, beverages and spirits, among others.
Uganda further accuses Kenya of contravening Article 76 and 104 of the EAC treaty that provides free movement of capital, goods and services; Artcicle 13 of the Customs Union Protocol that obligates member states to eliminate non-tariff barriers and the Common Market Protocol.
Uganda has thus demanded the immediate release of the seized products and to stop the crackdown on its milk.
National Assembly’s Committee on Agriculture last December told the government to ban further importation of milk.
About 12 million litres is imported from Uganda per month.
Documents by Livestock Principal Secretary Harry Kimutai to the committee showed Kenya is producing 5.6 billion litres of milk and consumes 5.17 billion litres, meaning that there is a surplus of about 430 million litres.