The Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC) has gazetted 9 standards that will be applied across the region to govern the quality of staple foods like cereals and pulses.
The standards are part of a drive to promote and formalise intra-regional trade in staple foods, which remains largely uncoordinated and informal due to the lack of regional quality standards.
EAGC Executive Director Gerald Masila said the lack of a single commodity standard has long been identified as a barrier to intra-regional trade, as each country applied different standards with regards to moisture content, residual pesticide contamination and aflatoxins.
“There will be fewer cases where commodities from one country are rejected in another if the quality standards of the grains meet market specifications. We have set out the general quality specifications to regulate hygiene of the grains. We have also set clear parameters to deal with moisture content, produce infestation with foreign matter, and the grading of diseased or broken grains,” Masila said.
The standards will apply to cereals like maize, millet, wheat, sorghum, rice and pulses, especially beans and peas. They will become legally binding in all member states 4 months after the publication of an official gazette detailing the amendments.
The EAGC has since urged all millers and exporters to acquire product certification now, and warned that they will not be allowed to trade after the adoption of the regulations.
The implementation of the new standards and quality threshold is likely to be hamstrung by the high cost of the grain certification process and very limited regional access to laboratories for testing and grading the grains.