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Swift decision to halt maize imports laudable

By Editorial | March 8th 2021
Farmers dry maize at Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret, UasinGishu county. [Christopher Kipsang,Standard]

Kenya has banned maize imports from Uganda and Tanzania. The Agriculture and Food Authority raised the red flag after tests showed that most of the maize imported from these countries contained high and unsafe levels of aflatoxin. Understandably, this action is not likely to gone down well with Uganda and Tanzania.

Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan are member states of the East African Community EAC), founded in 1999. EAC has played a key role in the socio- economic development of the Eastern Africa region, crafting policies that create better trade practices and allowing for ease of movement of both goods and people across borders. This is done within clear stipulations to ensure fair play.

However, following Kenya’s action, EAC’s Director General for Customs and Trade, Kenneth Bagamuhunda, claimed that in banning maize imports from Uganda and Tanzania, Kenya did not follow procedure, but acted unilaterally despite guidelines on how such action should be taken.

Granted, rules and procedures should be followed, but that notwithstanding, the Government has a duty to safeguard its citizens against harm. Kenya has every reason to take immediate action, especially because it has had bad experiences with aflatoxin infested maize before. In one particularly bad case, 125 people lost their lives in 2004. In the following year, 16 people died from aflatoxin.

Last year, the Kenya Bureau of Standards banned 17 brands of maize flour after tests showed they had high levels of aflatoxin. It is therefore understandable why the government took such action. Indeed, the Government should step up testing of maize imports and other food items to ensure no Kenyan is exposed to poisonous food that could be a threat to their lives

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