Museveni, Salva Kiir intervene in Uganda,South Sudan maize row

by Business Times
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President Yoweri Museveni and his South Sudan counterpart, President Salva Kiir agreed that the affected trucks are returned to the border post to allow for further tests on the maize by the East African Community mobile laboratory starting Friday, 07 July 2023(PHOTO/Courtesy)

The presidents of Uganda and South Sudan have intervened in a maize row that had threated to ruin relations between the two countries.

In June 2023, 65 Ugandan trucks transporting maize to South Sudan were impounded by the South Sudan National Bureau of Standards (SSNBS) at the Nimule-Elegu border post on allegations that the quality of some of the maize was compromised.

The South Sudan authorities alleged that the maize contained aflatoxins of over 10bpp, a high measure of abundance of b-propeller phytases (bpp) and therefore, unsuitable for human consumption.

“In those trucks that we have mentioned that have Maize, Sorghum, or whatever grains that have been tested and failed have to be destroyed,” she stressed, adding that “We detained the trucks for a very good reason because of the level of aflatoxin, especially B1 which is very dangerous and it causes cancer if it accumulates in your body”.

However, addressing journalists in Kampala, the Ugandan traders expressed concern over the decision by South Sudan to destroy maize flour estimated at about shs10 billion.

They argue that the tests done by South Sudan were not transparent.

“The number of samples (27) claimed to have been taken isn’t representative enough to generalize results on the entire consignments of over 74 trucks under detention.UNBS staff were denied access to take samples by South Sudan authorities, therefore we wonder the rationale for refusing Uganda to take samples for its own analysis, and yet this is a matter of Uganda’s economy,” Richard Sserwadda, the chairperson of National Millers Association said.

“The very maize which was processed into maize flour for export to South Sudan, is the  same maize exported as grain for other markets like Kenya DRC, Rwanda not excluding our local market where many South Sudanese  form a significant percentage and non has ever imported food from South Sudan but rather feed daily on the very food their authorities back home are claiming to not fit for human.”

In a brief to Parliament chaired by Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa, on Thursday, 06 July 2023, the Minister of State for Trade, Industry and Cooperatives (Trade), Hon. Harriet Ntabazi, said efforts from Uganda’s Prime Minister and the Minister for East African Community Affairs failed to solve the impasse.

Despite efforts by officials from the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) to access the trucks, they were blocked by their counterparts because the trucks had been moved seven kilometres into the South Sudan territory.

“The team of standards experts was to draw samples from the trucks for further testing and analysis but they were not allowed on account that the matter was now under the control of the South Sudan National Security body,” said Ntabazi.

Ntabazi added: “We requested for copies of the rapid tests done by the SSNBS but the chief in charge vehemently declined stating that he could only issue results on authorisation from his bosses.”

President Yoweri Museveni and his South Sudan counterpart, President Salva Kiir agreed that the affected trucks are returned to the border post to allow for further tests on the maize by the East African Community mobile laboratory starting Friday, 07 July 2023.

The two Heads of State also agreed that the consignments that pass the test should be allowed to proceed into Juba and the non-confirming consignments be dealt with in accordance with the Standardisation, Quality Assurance, Metrology and Testing Act.

Ntabazi pledged to brief the House on the outcome of the joint activity.

Tracks at the border

In March 2021, the Kenyan government banned Uganda’s maize exports after the  Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) in Kenya said the maize contained mycotoxins, particularly aflatoxins, which can cause cancer.

In the same month, Kenya also banned maize imports from Tanzania after discovering the presence of similar contamination.

Regional trade in maize is becoming problematic despite EAC partner states being co-signatories to agreements on free movement of goods.

Recently, Tanzanian authorities stopped more than 200 trucks from ferrying maize into Kenya from Tanzania at the Namanga border.

Meanwhile, maize exports from Uganda to Kenya, which would have filled the huge gap, have dropped due to demand in the more lucrative South Sudan market.

The reported difficulties with Tanzania further expose Kenya, which has only been able to import 2 million out of an expected 10 million bags of maize, which is the country’s main staple food.

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