Kenya and Zambia are in talks to revive the export of milk and cooking oil to the southern African nation.
According to Comesa director of trade customs, Francis Mangeni, the timeline is yet to be determined to avoid jeopardising talks.
“The issue is in the hands of member states who are expected to come up with a solution that covers the milk value chain from farm to storage and packaging, however we have not fixed timelines,” he said.
Zambia rejected Kenyan milk due to differences in standards for the product between the two nations.
They believe that Kenya’s raw milk has a very high bacterial load compared to Zambia’s.
However, Kenya has argued that the milk undergoes ultra high treatment, making it safe for consumption.
Zambia allows a total bacteria count of 200,000 while Kenya uses the international benchmark of one million.
According to the Kenya Dairy Board, the country’s milk production currently stands at more than 5 billion litres. The country’s milk exports is more than 10 million litres and is mostly in the form of long life milk, powder milk and ghee.
On palm oil exports, Mangeni said the Zambian market doubts whether the products have enough Kenyan content and can be considered to be originally from Kenya.
“They need assurance that these products are not just trans-shipped from elsewhere through Kenya, and are not products of spanner industries,” said.
He said Kenya has expressed willingness to have Zambian authorities visit and inspect the manufacturing process to ascertain that the products are indeed local.
“We want the Zambian authorities to inspect the production of palm oil and see for themselves whether these palm oil products are originally from Kenya.”
He said the problem of persisting non-tariff barriers are compounded by influential players who own industries in the member states of Comesa, but want to protect their state markets through blocking the importation of similar products from else where.
Such players, he said, usually employ non-tariff barriers to achieve this. The Comesa treaty, Article 61, has a safeguard measure where domestic industries can be protected from foreign competition until they are stable. He said that although trade rules may be clear for all states, behind-the-scenes factors make the whole process of eliminating the barriers complicated.