The Star | 1 March 2021
Kenyan small scale farmers sue government over UK trade pact
By Jillo Kadida
Kenya small scale farmers have sued seeking to stop the government from entering into a trade pact with UK.
The farmers want public participation in relation to the pact be conducted at grassroots level so that everyone’s views are captured.
The agreement among other things reduces tariffs on imports of products such as chicken pork and maize for a period of 25 years.
The farmers say the deal will hurt the rural farmers as their products will have to compete with those from UK.
Last week the government said Kenya’s Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the UK has specific provisions protecting the local market from unfair competition from UK producers.
The pact which remains open to other regional states seeks to have customs duties applicable to products originating in the UK into the EAC partner states, progressively abolished, a move that raised the question of unfair competition.
The first move is the reduction of basic duty on UK imports to 80 per cent, seven years after the entry into force of the agreement, with a final abolishment after 15 years.
Between seven and fifteen years, the duty will be reduced from between 80 per cent (after seven years) to 10 per cent (14 years after the entry into force of the agreement).
It however provides a platform for reviewing sections of the trade pact and mechanism to resolve issues arising from an aggrieved party, which is expected to play out in the ratification process currently underway.
Kenya’s Trade cabinet secretary Betty Maina and UK’s International Trade Minister Ranil Jayawardena signed an EPA in London on December 8, securing duty and quota-free market access effective January 1.
The high cost of production in Kenya has raised questions over unfair competition from cheaper imports from the UK, a trend that already exists with Chinese imports that have flooded the local market.
Imports from the UK include vehicles(other than railway, tramway), machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers, pharmaceutical products, paper and paperboard, articles of pulp, beverages, spirits and vinegar, electrical, electronic equipment, textile articles and chemical products.
There are approximately 2,500 UK businesses exporting goods to Kenya each year, with last year’s total exports to valued at Sh29.9 billion.
Kenya’s top exports to the UK includes tea, coffee and spices (Sh18 billion), vegetables (Sh 11.7 billion) and live trees and plants, mostly flowers (Sh8 billion).