Diplomatic Row: Uganda protests milk confiscation by Kenyan Authorities

Some of the impounded lato Milk

The foreign affairs Ministry of Uganda has sent a protest note to the Kenyan government demanding the immediate release of consignments of milk that had been impounded by Kenyan officials. They claim that the move was wanton and that their milk was of standard quality.

In the protest letter, the Ugandan government states that on January 2,2020 the Kenyan authorities seized 43,000 kg of milk powder and an additional 21,600 litres of milk on January 7. A further 241,032 litres of milk and 11,310 kilos of milk powder (both of Lato brand) had been confiscated by January 11,2020. The Ugandan government stated that the “illegal seizures” had been executed in spite of the fact that these goods had been cleared for entry into the Kenyan market by inter alia the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, the KRA, the Kenya Dairy Board and the KEBS.

“The Ministry would like to request the government of Kenya to immediately release the seized consignments of Lato branded milk as they were duly cleared by the relevant Kenyan government bodies for importation into Kenya and thus they are not contraband, substandard and counterfeit as alleged,” the statement read.

The Ugandan government claim that the confiscation by Kenyan authorities of the Lato brand has occasioned heavy financial losses to the company. The milk products are estimated to be worth Ksh. 36 million.

Uganda avers that the decision by Kenyan government contravenes the principle of good neighborliness and also a number of multilateral treaties including Kenya’s obligation under the treaty establishing the East African Community, Customs Union protocol, Common Market protocol and World Trade Organisation trade facilitation agreement.

“This has resulted not only into confiscation of 54,310 kilos of powder milk valued at $203,630 and 262,632 litres of UHT milk valued at $157,106 but also have witnessed a sustained negative campaign against Uganda’s milk and milk products, contravening the principle of good neighborliness and Kenya’s obligations under the Treaty Establishing the East African Community, Customs Union Protocol and Common Market Protocol and the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement,” the protest note read in part.

Nonetheless, Kenya’s move is said to have been occasioned by protests from Kenyan milk processors who asserted that they are witnessing low sales more so in the western region of Kenya as a result of influx of the cheap Ugandan milk.

Earlier this week, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta issued a directive to the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to impound any powdered milk or dairy products that are below the Kenyan standards. However, he ignored the 16 percent import duty that had been propose on Milk imports from Uganda inferring that local dairy farmers would have to put up with the influx in milk. Instead he directed that the duty would only be levied on milk products imported from outside the East African Community (EAC).

This directive disregarded the recommendations of a verification mission that went to Uganda during the last quarter of 2019 whereby they had called for the duty on imports to protect farmers.

The Ugandan government also urged the Kenyan government to cease any operations targeting Ugandan made milk exported to Kenya and also refrain from any actions against Uganda’s exports to Kenya, be it milk or any other products, that contravene the EAC Customs Union Protocol and Common Market Protocol.

Kenya’s government is yet to issue an official response.

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