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Lusaka, Thursday, February, 23, 2017: Kenya and Zambia have launched a fresh bid to unlock a long standing non-tariff barrier affecting trade in milk and palm oil.

A Kenya government delegation led by Dr Chris Kiptoo, the Principal Secretary, Ministry of Industry and Cooperatives was in Zambia for three days this week for bilateral talks with Zambian counterparts.

Kenya’s milk and palm oil products cannot access the Zambia market owing to conflict on standards. With regard to milk, Zambia’s standard allows total bacteria count (TBC) of 200,000 while Kenya’s follows the international benchmark of one million TBC.

“We need COMESA standard so that we can start trading”, Dr Kiptoo said when he visited the COMESA Secretariat for a courtesy call. He attributed the 13 year stalemate to the absence of a common COMESA standard that would guide the import and export of the various commodities across borders in the region.

“A COMESA Standard would help producers to come up with uniform products that can sell across the borders in the region and beyond” Dr Kiptoo said adding that the gap had left member states to use their own standards which were in inconsistent with their trading partners states.

The PS said there is need for COMESA member states to trade amongst each other more than with other countries and continents, as this will help boost the productive capacity of the various industries. He lamented that the levels of trade are still very low compared to the potential that actually exists.

He said: “Exports in goods for 2015 were about 6 billion dollars and 70% of those went to 12 markets in the world out of which 90 to 95 % were in the COMESA region.”

Acting Secretary General Dr Kipyego Cheluget congratulated Kenya and Zambia for giving a new thrust to the resolution of the outstanding NTB matter as it had taken unnecessary long to resolve.

He urged the two States to strive and resolve the matter within this year so that trade can start between the two countries in the named commodities. He said the Secretariat was ready to assist in achieving this goal.

Amb. Cheluget noted that Kenya and Zambia were named in Africa Regional Integration Index as most integrated states in the COMESA region and therefore key in advancing regional trade and investments.

COMESA Director of Trade Dr Francis Mangeni said the milk and palm oil hurdle was the last two of the remaining four unresolved NTBs in the region. He said 96% of all reported NTBs had been resolved and expressed optimism that these would be put to rest this year.

Kenya’s High Commissioner to Zambia and Permanent Representative to COMESA H.E Sophie Kombe accompanied the team.