On Saturday, Tanzania’s government said that it had not received official correspondence from Kenya about the ban on maize imports.
This followed an internal letter from Kenya’s Agriculture and Food Authority informing the Kenya Revenue Authority’s commissioner of customs of the decision (KRA).
According to the letter, an examination of food imported to Kenya from Tanzania and Uganda showed the existence of mycotoxins above safe levels.
Aflatoxins and fumonisins, in particular, are believed to be casinogenic mycotoxins. Acute and chronic aflatoxin-related illness cases have been recorded in Kenya over the years, with some cases resulting in death, according to the Kenyan authority.
“We wish to bring to your attention that the Agriculture and Food Authority has stopped any further imports of maize into Kenya with immediate effect,” reads the letter.
“Kenya is, however, committed to facilitating safe trade with her trading partners and looks forward to working closely with all stakeholders to address the concern.”
‘No official communication’
But Tanzania’s Permanent Secretary in the Agriculture ministry, Mr Gerald Kusaya, told The Citizen that no official communique has been sent from Kenya.
Mr Kusaya also noted that even if there had been official communication, there would be the issue of where the tests that discovered the mycotoxins took place.
“We reserve further comments pending receiving official communication,” he said over the phone.
Mr Emmanuel Buhohela, the head of government communications at Tanzania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, also said there had been no official communication from Kenya.
Deputy Agriculture minister Hussein Bashe went to the Namanga on Saturday to follow up on KRA’s decision to ban trucks ferrying maize to Kenya.
Mr Bashe, who was accompanied by Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) Director-General Yussuf Ngenya, said that despite the lack of official communication, he had confirmed social media reports that violate bilateral trade relations.
“The Agriculture Ministry is looking into the matter with great seriousness. We are waiting for a formal complaint from Kenya in accordance with procedures,” he said.
He added that in the event of “one or two incidents”, the Kenyan government should not draw conclusions affecting the entire maize industry without involving a wide range of institutions usually consulted under such circumstances.
EAC protocols Mr Bashe further said that since Tanzania and Kenya are members of the East African Community (EAC), their differences have to be resolved through procedures governing the regional body, so Tanzania’s image and the quality of its products should not be tarnished.
“Our Kenyan colleagues should take world-renowned measures – that if they take a sample in one consignment and find a problem that is serious, they have a responsibility to write to us (None Compliance Note) indicating the load and the country/place of origin for further management and actions,” he said.
Mr Ngenya added, “It is a common practice to provide official information when there are challenges caused by the quality of products, but no reports have been submitted so far.”
Mr Rafael Augustino, an agent at the Namanga border, said on Friday that 15 trucks loaded with maize, that had crossed into Kenya, were restricted from travelling further.
He said the move will increase the cost of doing business as drivers will stay longer at the border.