The East African Grain Council (EAGC) has challenged governments in the region to enact and implement laws that seek to promote inter-regional trade in grains and cereals in order to reduce imports of staple foods like rice.
EAGC executive director Gerald Makau Masila said a supportive legal regime can promote cross-border trade in commodities, protect local producers and reduce the regional food imports.
“Regional governments should recognise the need to protect rice producers and strengthen efforts to make the region self-sufficient in rice production. This will also promote intra-regional trade of the commodity,” Masila said.
Further, he said cross-border traders of grains and cereals face numerous tariff and non-tariff barriers that potentially contravened the spirit of the regional integration.
Informal trading, poor product quality, low output and the bulk importation of staples like rice from Asian countries were cited among other factors inhibiting intra-regional trade in grains and cereals.
According to estimates, East Africa imports over 500 000 tonnes of Asian rice annually. However, the volume of grains traded between East Africa and other African trade blocs remains minimal.
Masila said governments should consider imposing tariffs to curtail rice imports: “Rice should be classified as a ‘sensitive’ product and imports from outside the region should attract an ‘ad-valorem’ common external tariff (CET) rate of up to 75%,” Masila said.
An ‘ad-valorem’ tariffs is defined as duty or charges levied on trade items on the basis of value as opposed to quantity, size or weight.
The meeting in the Rwandan capital Kigali brought together more than 100 grain traders and farmers from East Africa to discuss specific trade policies that affecting the regional grain trade.