UGANDA - East African countries have been advised to harmonize grain standards at all border posts to improve on the quality of grains traded in the region.
This follows increased interest in grain trade across the border in which farmers are likely to lose out simply because those trading their grains are not following the required standards in grain trade.
The findings from a two-year study indicate that there are only four officials at the three border points applying the EAC standards for maize and rice in their entirety.
This means that the set standards are not being followed as a reference document when goods are being checked even though the officials are aware of the standards.
This is according to a report on Farmers Integration into Regional Markets through Structured Trade projects that was implemented by the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF), supported by USAID.
Stephen Muchiri, the Chief executive Director of EAFF blames this on the low numbers of staff, especially at Busia border post, which has only one staff member handling the trade facilitation of all agriculture commodities.
"This one staff is responsible for verifying import and export documents, sampling agricultural commodities, working with their counter parts on the Kenyan side in addition to conducting spot checks along the irregular informal trade routes," quotes the report.
The findings are further backed by recent findings by the EAC standards committee that visited border areas in November last year, which noted that only 60% of EAC standards had been adopted by partner states.
They also discovered that there were no functional laboratories for testing for aflatoxins and traces of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the grains that were coming and leaving the country.
"Grain suspected to be having traces of GMO's at Namanga boarder are taken to Nairobi for testing a process that slows down trade and increases congestion at the border," added Muchiri.
The project was aimed at integrating small farmers into the formal trading systems to facilitate their access to national and regional markets and was implemented in three East African countries of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
This was conducted through farmer organizations, which include Uganda Cooperative Alliance (UCA), Kenya National Farmers Federation (KENAFF) and Tanzania Federation of Cooperatives Limited (TFC). The project focused on the two gain commodities of maize and rice.