Uganda has lost over $360,000 in milk exports due to the consignment of milk seized by Kenyan officials on alleged quality concerns, sparking a fresh diplomatic row between the two neighbouring countries. The information was revealed by Kampala’s government spokesman Ofwono Opondo, in a tweet.

According to The EastAfrican, Uganda, which is Kenya’s trading neighbour in the region has issued a protest note expressing deep concern about “illegal seizures of Ugandan-made milk products under the Lato brand.” The Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the seizure by Kenyan authorities, which happened on January 2, has caused “heavy financial losses to the company”

In the protest note, Uganda said the decision by Kenya contravenes the “principle of good neighbourliness” and Kenya’s obligation under the treaty establishing the East African Community (EAC) Customs Union protocol, Common Market protocol, and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade facilitation agreement.

“This has resulted not only into confiscation of 54,310 kilos of powder milk valued at $203,630 and 262,632 litres of UHT milk valued at $157,106 but also have witnessed a sustained negative campaign against Uganda’s milk and milk products, contravening the principle of good neighbourliness and Kenya’s obligations under the Treaty Establishing the East African Community, Customs Union Protocol and Common Market Protocol and the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement,” the Ugandan ministry said.

The protest note, directed to Kenyas High Commission to Uganda on January 15, followed tense stakeholders meeting in Kampala. The dialogue came after warehouses owned by Uganda’s Pearl Diaries and those of its distributors in Nairobi were raided and its stock confiscated by officials of Kenya’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), without any court orders.

Between January 1 and 12, the DCI confiscated 54 tonnes of powdered milk and 140,000 litres of Long Life milk from Pearl Dairies and its distributors, citing nonconformity to standards and smuggling.

A review of documentation relating to the impugned consignments by Uganda’s Trade Ministry, however, revealed that they had been issued certificates of conformity by the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya Dairy Board, Kenya Bureau of Standards and Kenya Revenue Authority, among others.

The escalating trade rift between Kenya and Uganda over milk exports is one of many cases in the East Africa region, which over time has seen Tanzania shut it borders to Ugandan timber, sugar and maize, while Kenya, which is open to imports of maize and beans from Uganda, has been reluctant to open its market to manufactured products from Kampala. 

Dr Gideon Badagawa, the Executive Director of the Uganda Private Sector Foundation warns that unless resolved early, these trade tiffs could affect the investment profile of the region, which is widely recognized for notable economic growth driven by regional integration.

By Ahmed Iyanda.

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