Kampala. East African Community (EAC) secretary general Richard Sezibera has said Kenya has no right to stop Ugandan sugar from being sold within its territory as long as both countries are members of the regional bloc.
According to Mr Sezibera, the same rule applies to any of the five EAC member states that attempts to restrict trade or movement of goods produced within the region from reaching each other’s market.
Speaking during his courtesy visit at the Monitor Publications Limited offices yesterday, the EAC secretary general said sugar shouldn’t be an issue in the region because all the five member states still need to produce more sugar than what is currently available.
He said: “All the EAC countries have sugar deficits, the only difference is that Uganda’s deficit is slightly better compared to the other statesbut as a region we have an annual deficit of about 200,000 metric tonnes. And for that, there should be no restriction of goods produced within East Africa.”
Mr Sezibera also revealed that the East Africa Legislative Assembly (Eala) has passed a law that requires a member country subjected to non-tariff barriers (NTBs) by another member state to be compensated. Something any of the aggrieved members can resort to once the regional head of states assent to it.
He said: “Restriction of movement of goods (among them sugar) is a barrier to trade and in future, Uganda could seek compensation for that and so can any other EAC country whose goods are blocked from entering another country within the bloc.”
Kenyan opposition politicians have seriously criticised the trade deals president Uhuru Kenyatta struck in Kampala following his three-day state visit early in the month.
Former prime minister Raila Odinga, who started the contention, believes the deal between the two neighbouring countries is not only bad for Kenya’s economy but will also see thousands of farmers, who derive livelihood from sugarcane growing, lose their livelihood.
In response, president Uhuru Kenyatta has defended the move, saying it is good for regional integration.
In one of his responses on the issue, President Uhuru said: “We would rather import sugar from Uganda than Brazil so as to support our own and promote the region integration.”
Tit bits about sugar production
Trade. Uganda imports goods worth $700m (Shs2.4 trillion) from Kenya, compared to exports worth $180m (Shs631b) to Kenya annually.
Free trade. Common Market protocol signed by all the EAC member states allows each member state to export freely to each other’s market.
Uganda’s surplus. Uganda produces about 465,000 metric tonnes of sugar against a consumption of 320,000 metric tonnes, leaving it with a 145,000-tonne surplus.Kenya’s deficit. Kenya produces an average of 600,000 metric tonnes, consumes 800, 000 850,000 metric tonnes. That’s a deficit of between 250,000 or 200,000 metric tonnes which must be plugged by imports. Kenya produced only 590,000 tonnes of sugar last year.
Duty free. Kenya’s duty free sugar (the 200,000 tonne quota) is supposed to come exclusively from Comesa states. Anything from outside Comesa attracts punitive tariff of 75 per cent.