President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni greet Kenya Ports Authority staff when they toured the Port of Mombasa.
Uganda has protested the move by Kenyan authorities to seize Lato milk produced by Pearl Dairy, fermenting a simmering trade war between the two countries.
The country’s Foreign Affairs ministry said seizures executed on three separate occasions this month contravene the EAC Customs Union Protocol, and demanded that Kenya immediately releases the consignments and refrain from any actions against its exports.
“The government of Uganda is deeply concerned about illegal seizures of Ugandan made milk and milk products under Lato brand, causing heavy financial losses to the company,” the letter read in part.
Uganda further wants Kenya to take responsibility for any spoilage of products seized and losses suffered; and address any trade concerns within the EAC and bilateral frameworks instead of resorting to arbitrary means that could jeopardise trade relations between the two countries.
The first consignment of 3,000 bags of powdered milk and packets of Lato milk were seized on December 27 on claims that the milk had been smuggled into the country without paying taxes.
On Monday last week, detectives from Kenya’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) seized at least 20,000 packets of Lato milk and milk powder at a depot in Meru town.
They said the recovered goods are suspected to have been illegally imported from Uganda.
On January 12, they also nabbed six lorries in Uasin Gishu County ferrying Lato milk believed to have been illegally brought into the country.
The lorries were found carrying 13,000 cartons of milk estimated to be worth Sh7 million.
The regulator, Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) could not be reached for a comment by the time of going to press as the agency’s managing director Margaret Kibogy failed to respond to our calls and messages.
In December, Parliament took officials from KDB and the State Department of Livestock to task over why there was a sharp rise in volumes of milk coming from Uganda.
Data presented to the Agriculture Committee indicated that the volumes coming from Uganda have been increasing for the last three years.
Uganda is one of Kenya’s leading trade partners with data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics showing that the land locked country imported goods worth Sh61.9 billion last year.
It also accounted for more than a quarter of the business at the port of Mombasa in 2018, pushing the total transit volumes up by 10 per cent from 8.6 million tonnes in 2017 to 9.6 million tonnes.