Arusha. Members of the business community are closely monitoring the flow of business between Tanzania and Kenya as they seek to make the most of improved trade relations between the two countries.
This comes against a background of a monumental rise in Tanzania’s exports to Kenya since President Samia Suluhu Hassan paid a two-day state visit to Kenya where she held talks with her Kenyan counterpart, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, in May.
Commodity exporters to Kenya have told The Citizen that they were doing everything possible to maintain the cordial business ties, including making routine visits to the borders to ensure that trade was moving freely.
“So far, we are not aware of any impropriety among Tanzanian traders doing business with Kenya,” said Mr Walter Maeda, the chair of the regional business chamber.
He said an official from Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Trade (TCCIA) was in the border town of Namanga yesterday to follow up if there were new challenges to cross-border trade.
Mr Maeda’s remarks were echoed by exporters of maize to Kenya based in Arusha who said business paced on as usual at the busy border crossing.
They said earlier hurdles they faced, such as the alleged contamination of the commodity by aflatoxin, had been sorted out by the governments of the two countries.
However, Mr Lukas Mtenga, one of the leading exporters of the cereal, complained that maize buyers from the neighbouring country had gone “too far” in the deal.
“They had started to buy maize directly from the farmers in the villages. This is not proper as it is likely to dislodge us from the business,” he told The Citizen on phone.
He insisted that they had no problem with the maize traders from Kenya buying the commodity at designated markets in Arusha, Babati or Singida.
Mr Mtenga, who operates from Kwa Mrombo, one of the largest maize markets in Arusha, could not say what was being done to address the challenge.
Early this week, Kenya cabinet secretary for the East African Community (EAC) Adan Mohamed accused some dishonest traders for breaking the rules of cross border commerce.
The allegations were directed at the business people in Tanzania and Uganda, the main trade partners for Kenya, “for non-conformity with controls and standards governing trade”.
He said this had led to his country in intermittent trade disputes largely with Tanzania and Uganda over tariff and non-tariff rules, prompting intervention by the higher authorities.
Kenya’s trade dispute with Tanzania had degenerated into a ban on maize imports from the latter over claims of aflatoxin contamination beyond the recommended levels.
But this was swiftly normalised in May following a meeting between presidents Hassan and Kenyatta.
While the strained trade relations between Tanzania and Kenya appear to be largely resolved, Nairobi and Kampala are yet to resolve their dispute over the sugar.
Earlier this week, Uganda protested to Kenya as to why the latter had limited sugar imports from the former to 18,923 tonnes as opposed to 90,000 tonnes agreed last April.
Contacted over the vicious trade spats, the East African Community (EAC) said it has established a special regulator to investigate and address unfair trade practices.
The Trade Remedies Committee (TRC) will help businesses within the bloc’s six member states when they have concerns over unfair trade deals from rivals outside EAC.
“We are setting up the TRC to deal with all challenges on intra-regional trade, including the rules of origin, subsidies and anti-dumping measures,” EAC secretary-general Peter Mathuki said on Wednesday.
According to him,the team will be in place by the end of this year and that it will, among other things, investigate an unexpected surge of imports into the region.