Eyes on EAC Secretariat as sugar imports standoff rages

Saturday August 11 2018

Bags of suspect sugar intercepted by police at the Kenya-Uganda border in 2015.

Bags of suspect sugar intercepted by police at the Kenya-Uganda border in 2015. PHOTO | NMG 

By ALLAN OLINGO
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The East African Community Secretariat is expected to act as an arbiter in the trade war pitting Tanzania against its neighbours Kenya and Uganda over sugar imports.

So bitter has been the dispute that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Thursday made a one-day visit to Tanzania to speak with President John Magufuli in an effort to resolve the dispute that has left Ugandan sugar exporters staring at losses worth millions of dollars. But President Magufuli has categorically said that his country will not be used a dumping ground.

Tanzanian authorities have stood their ground, stating that they will not allow any sugar to be imported from neighbouring countries because this is encouraging smuggling.

“We were informed of smuggling of sugar products to Tanzania from Uganda. This is why we issued an embargo to stop the illegal activities. We realise that the sugar products entering the country from Uganda were not manufactured in Uganda, but elsewhere, despite being labelled as manufactured in Uganda,” President John Magufuli said on Thursday during a joint press conference with President Museveni.

Dar has said it is no longer interested in importing sugar from its neighbour, saying there are adequate stocks in the Tanzanian market.

“Tanzania is not a dumping place. There is enough imported sugar in Tanzania. We are also aware that more than 20 trucks from a neighbouring country carrying sugar have been seized at Sirare along the Kenya-Tanzania border, trying to enter the country illegally,” President Magufuli said.

The EastAfrican understands that the EAC Secretariat’s Customs and Trade desk has taken up the matter.

In May, the Uganda Sugar Manufacturers Association reportedly sought audience with Trade Ministry PS Julius Onen on the issue before Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde raised it with the EAC Secretariat.

A source said that the EAC’s Director-General of Customs and Trade Kenneth Bagamuhunda sought Tanzanian Trade Minister Charles Mwijage’s intervention with little success.

Mr Mwigaje had earlier in March announced that Dar would stop issuing new permits for sugar importation effective June 2018.