|Buyers and farmers examining samples of their commodity varieties to understand market requirement
The East African Region is diverse in terms of agro-ecological conditions. Some parts are endowed with fertile soils and favorable climate with excellent conditions for agriculture. Others face food crisis due to frequent droughts causing food shortages, even when there is more than enough food in the region as a whole.
In Kenya (the regional economic powerhouse), three-quarters of the land is semi-arid and thus hardly suitable for agricultural production (MoA, 2013). Yet, in high production zones such as Tanzania (especially the Southern Highlands), Kenya (Rift Valley), bigger part of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi a lot of food is lost after harvest due, in part, to their poor production planning (producing without assured market) and lack of information about regional market opportunities and market requirements.
Existing efforts and planned interventions by EAC Governments, Development Partners and other stakeholders are meant to create a more free trade environment as an incentive to increased trade. Some of these initiatives include establishment of EAC common market, customs union (CU), application of the rules of origin in a single customs territory (SCT), reduction of internal customs border controls, one border post (OBP), application of common external tariff (CET), destination model of clearance of goods, and duty remission scheme among others. All these initiatives are meant to minimize internal border customs controls on goods moving between Partner States with an ultimate realization of free circulation of
However, inadequate awareness among private sector, implementing agencies, and other support institutions combined with poorly organized farmers (suppliers) and limited access to reliable food market information, have continued to prevent farmers
|and traders from taking advantage of existing regional food market opportunities.
It is against the aforementioned that the Regional East African Community Trade in Staples (REACTS) project, funded by IFAD and implemented by Kilimo Trust across EAC, recently introduced a new approach dubbed “Establishing Trade Networking Platforms (TNPs)” to speed up regional food trade. The TNPs bring together farmers, major national & regional traders, NGOs and key trade support institutions (Ministry of Trade, Revenue Authority, Ministry of Agriculture), to explore national and regional market opportunities, share experiences and address key bottlenecks to trade. Regional buyers come with samples of their preferred commodity varieties and farmers carry the samples of their most grown commodity varieties. Then, all the stakeholders examine them for any mismatch between varieties grown by the farmers and those required by buyers. Concerns raised in TNP meetings guide trade and agricultural support institutions and projects to tailor their interventions to respond to market requirements and to reduce impediments and bottlenecks in accessing national and regional markets.
In the period of January-March 2016, two Regional Trade Networking Platforms were formed. The first one was the Regional Trade Networking Platform for Staples which was launched in January 2016 in Kigali for Beans, Maize and Potatoes. This platform is supported by REACTS project and the Climate Resilient Post-harvest and Agri-business Support Project (PASP) (also funded by IFAD) implemented by Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI).
The meeting was officially opened by Director General for External Trade in the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Rwanda (MINICOM). In his speech, he highlighted some of the existing policies that enable regional cross border trade. On the other hand, the Deputy Commissioner for Customs in Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) explained what has already been made easier to enable EAC regional
|Signing of agreements between Kenya Onions Traders Panel and DIDIHAMA AMCOS
cross-border trade. What was most exciting to farmers and traders was the fact that, goods destined for EAC regional export markets can now be verified at the exit point (border) and obtain export clearance. Prior to this initiative, traders had to travel to Kigali to obtain the relevant permits, even if the products to be exported were produced near the border of the export-destination country. Also, there is no tax imposed on exports to EAC.
The second platform was the Allium Trade Networking Platform (ATNP) launched in March 2016 in Tanzania’s Manyara region (Mbulu district) for Garlic and Onions. This was supported by REACTS in partnership with Marketing Infrastructure Value Addition and Rural Finance support Programme (MIVARF) funded by IFAD Tanzania.
After understanding requirements to access regional markets, partnership was formed between DIDIHAMA AMCOS (Garlic producers) and Kenya Onions Traders Panel. DIDIHAMA AMCOS plans to supply 2,000 MT of Garlic. MIVARF and other support institutions agreed to support the linkage for it to be successful. Farmers were urged to apply good practices to meet market requirements.
Farmers and traders were happy to learn that they do not have to use “shortcuts” anymore to dodge taxes as it results in bigger losses when they are caught and their goods are impounded. It was also observed that staple food producer groups in EAC have not yet reached a level of working directly with regional/international buyers in a sustainable linkage. The easiest way is to link established national buyers to regional markets/buyers. This is because established national buyers understand regional market requirements better than smallholder farmers. At the same time, national/big buyers understand smallholder farmers better than buyers.