Government renegotiates trade tariffs with export countries

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019 00:00 |
Avocado fruit. Photo/Courtesy

The government is negotiating with various States to ease barriers to exporters. Trade PS Chris Kiptoo recently confirmed Kenya exports, mainly agricultural produce, have been facing tough conditions from export destinations, thus contributing to huge trade imbalances.

The trend, he said, has led to flooding of local markets with foreign goods. “We have had challenges accessing some markets like China, Mauritius and Australia.

The three have issued new and tough conditions, which owing to their nature, our exporters are not able to adhere to. This has led to reduction in exports to those markets,” said Kiptoo.

He made the remarks during the launch of the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service 2017/18-2021/22 strategic plan.

Even after the government signed a memorandum of understating on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) with the Chinese late last year, China is still levying 30 per cent on Kenya agricultural produce and demands avocados be exported in frozen condition which local farmers say is not achievable due to lack of such facilities. 

EU countries have of late issued new conditions on fresh produce that demand reduction in use of certain chemicals while Australia has, from September 1, banned fumigated flower exports.

“Imports into the country are three times that of our exports. We are handicapped in terms of low production and the products are not value added denying exporters premium prices in the international markets. In the recent past we have been engaging various global governments to negotiate for low tariffs,” said Kiptoo.

According to Economic Survey 2019, Kenya exported goods worth Sh541.5 billion against imports of Sh1.7 trillion in 2018. 

Most of the exports include agricultural produce –tea, horticultural, articles of apparel and clothing accessories, coffee and tobaccos and tobacco products.

Kiptoo said the government recently enacted a trade policy to tame the huge imbalance, adding that as part of implementing the policy, it will establish an export delivery unit. 

The unit is being established with the assistance of Trade Mark East Africa and other government agencies. 

As private sector push the government to put restrictions, Kiptoo said trade between Kenya and other countries is guided by rules from the World Trade Organisation.

“More than 70 per cent of our commodities are exported to less than 10 countries–Pakistan, US, Netherlands, UK, Germany, Uganda, Tanzania, Egypt, UAE and Rwanda. Under the national export strategy our focus is to diversify our exports in addition to consolidating the traditional markets,” he said.

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