Kenya, Uganda rivalry rears ugly head with new milk war

Eldoret Polytechnic friesian dairy cows at the institution on March 29,2023. [Christopher Kipsang,Standard] 

The rivalry between Kenya and Uganda is rearing its head again, hurting trade between the two East African countries once again. 

The Ugandan dairy industry has protested the denial of permits to export milk products to Kenya. This is even as it emerged that Ugandan authorities had blocked fish exports destined to the Democratic Republic of Congo from Kenya and South Sudan. 

The tensions are despite intentions by the two governments to solidify bilateral relations.

In May, President William Ruto hosted President Yoweri Museveni and during their discussions, according to a joint communique, they reaffirmed their commitment to continue developing bilateral cooperation in different areas including trade, transport and infrastructure and regional integration. 

Despite the agreement, processes on each side of the border appear to be frustrating businesses. Ugandan dairy firms have decried the continuous ban on their products by Kenya and the denial of export permits. 

Among the companies that have been affected by the denial of permits include Brookside Limited, owned by Brookside Dairy of Kenya. The company said it had been denied 114 export permits by the Kenya Dairy Board since March last year.

“We were delighted to read the communique signed by the two countries when the two heads of State met in Nairobi, as we believe it was key to unlocking trade barriers which have existed since March last year. However, a month later, we are yet to receive export permits for our long-life milk, which includes powder and ultra-high temperature (UHT) processed milk,” said Benson Mwangi, Brookside Limited’s general manager.

Kenya accounts for more than 80 per cent of Uganda’s exported milk, according to data by Uganda Dairy Development Authority, but the frustrations it faces in exporting the products to its neighbour are pushing it to explore other markets, mostly in North and West Africa. 

Mr Mwangi said Brookside Limited had written severally to the Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) on the pending permit applications, with no response forthcoming so far from the regulator.

“We are however optimistic that KDB could soon implement the tenets of the communique by the two heads of state, which would unlock the impasse and allow us to resume export of our products,” Mwangi said.

Kenya has since March last year been restricting entry of Ugandan dairy products, which saw milk processors in the country stuck with millions of litres of milk. 

Following the restrictions, which are largely seen in non-issuance of permits as opposed to an outright ban, Brookside Limited said it laid off half of its staff in Uganda. 

The firm said the failure by the Kenya government to grant export permits to its products had denied it over 75 per cent of its market, adding that the blockades had made it difficult for it to continue servicing Kenya, a major market for its products, at optimum levels.

Efforts by The Saturday Standard to reach KDB for comments were unsuccessful.

Similar challenges appear in other businesses as Ugandan authorities have confiscated more than 400 tonnes of fish from Kenya and South Sudan on transit to DR Congo. The trucks carrying the fish have been denied exit at Mpondwe border with DRC.

Trucks from Kenya and South Sudan carrying fish worth Sh210 million are allegedly being held by the Uganda Fish Protection Unit (UFPU) at the Mpondwe border in Uganda, according to exporters.

Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in a letter dated June 4, 2024 to Ugandan Minister for Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives Francis Mwebesa, protested against the move to force trucks to offload fish destined for DRC’s Bukavu, Kisangani and Goma areas.


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