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New COMESA project on food health standards to enhance market access

‘Prioritizing SPS Investments for Market Access (P-IMA) framework, an initiative of the STDF/Courtesy

NAIROBI, Kenya Jun 25 – Regional countries are set to increase market access for their agricultural products following the commencement of a new capacity building project to mainstream sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards (SPS) priorities into national policies.

The project is titled: ‘Mainstreaming SPS capacity building into the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and other National Policy Frameworks to Enhance Market Access’.

The project has a budget of US$464 out of which US$390 is provided by the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) a World Trade Organization (WTO) agency.

The project covers five countries that are members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA); Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Malawi. It is being implemented under the ‘Prioritizing SPS Investments for Market Access (P-IMA) framework, an initiative of the STDF.

Kenya is the second country after Uganda, to start implementing the project with the inception meeting and high-level stakeholder dialogue taking place yesterday followed by training on P-IMA from today to Thursday this week in Nairobi.

The events bring together experts from the private sector, relevant public sector departments and institutions of government to build consensus on the most critical SPS priorities and investments.

The P-IMA framework is an evidence-based approach to inform and improve SPS planning and decision-making processes. It helps to link SPS investments to public policy goals including export growth, agricultural productivity, and poverty reduction.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Trade Dr Chris Kiptoo, represented by the Assistant Director of External Trade Helen Kenani, opened the meeting. In his statement, he said the variation of SPS capacity across COMESA countries and the continent, undermine the region’s capacity to trade with itself.

“The diversity of strengths and weaknesses on the continent demands greater collaboration between countries that belong to the same Free Trade Area (FTA), particularly the ACFTA that just came into force,” Dr Kiptoo said.

He observed that compliance with SPS measures opens tremendous export opportunities for producers and exporters, both at the intra-regional trade level and at the international level. For Kenya, he said, the subject of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards is a crucial element of trade policy.

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Currently, intra COMESA trade remains low relative to other regions, at around 11% of total COMESA exports with the majority of traded products being of low added value.

COMESA Director of Agriculture and Industry, Thierry Kalonji attributed this to lack of industrial diversification, the existence of Non-Tariff Barriers such as health standards requirements, supply side constraints and cumbersome border measures.

“Almost 70% of the reported NTBs in the region are constituted by Technical Barriers to Trade (TBTs) and SPS measures,” he said. “If they are not addressed, our countries will find it difficult to take advantage of the mega trade agreements such as the tripartite and the continental free trade area.”

He cited the following as some of the SPS challenges that countries faced, which the new project seeks to address; varied TBT standards and regulatory frameworks across member States, absence of good regulatory practice and, low levels of compliance in the public and private sectors.

With the majority of the 21 COMESA Member States heavily depend on agriculture, fisheries, and livestock, Kalonji said the production and trade of agricultural and fisheries produce is of high priority, if only as a stepping stone to industrialization.

Roshan Khan of the STDF as well as representatives of Trade Mark East Africa and Kenya Association of Manufacturers addressed the meeting.

In the next three days, the stakeholders in Kenya will be trained on the implementation and integration of the P-IMA tool into national planning and investment processes.

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