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Trade barriers blamed for food shortage

NAIROBI, July 24 -A food shortage being experienced in the East African Region has been attributed to trade barriers within the EAC member states.

Eastern Africa Grain Council Acting Managing Director, Steve Njukia, said Thursday that the shortage was artificial and exaggerated due to bottlenecks on the free flow of grains from surplus areas to those experiencing a deficit.

"You find a country has a surplus but you cannot move the grains due to trade barriers," he said.

"For instance moving maize from Southern Tanzania to North is more expensive than importing it from Kenya."

Njukia said that it\’s with this in mind that the Eastern Africa Grain Council and the East African community recently signed an agreement that would remove non tariff barriers and allow free movement of food and trade in the region.

"This MOU will create a platform that will formalise the relationship between the government and the private sector in addressing these relevant issues," Njukia explained.

EAC Deputy Secretary General Julius Onen said some countries had either imposed bans or raised tax, citing protection of their domestic markets from increased competition.

"The understanding in this MOU is that we would remove all contradictions and we must create a common market, and we want a borderless market, with a clear understanding on the gaps and potentials," said Onen.

Onen expressed optimism that the MOU would allow the private sector to play a more central role in ensuring food availability and eventually eliminating food scarcity.

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He said: "The private sector will be brought to the fore through this agreement notwithstanding that it\’s the engine that runs the regions economy".

Two other organisations – The African Cotton and Textile Industries Federation (ACTIF) and the East and Southern African Dairy association (ESADA) also signed the MOU.

Onen noted that the agreement was crucial in reducing the high cost of food in Eastern and Southern Africa but called on regional governments to play a bigger role in reducing trade barriers.

The agreement is in line with integration of the East African Community.

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