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Nairobi, Thursday, May 18, 2017: Stakeholders in the in the Agro-industry have completed a two-day dialogue that addressed issues affecting sustainability and growth in the sector. The ‘2nd Agro Industry Dialogue’ took place in Kenya, 17-18 May 2017, and came up with common positions to be structured into the policy processes to improve commodity supply chains.

Close to 50 participants composed of Agro industry companies, horticulture processing and producer companies, dairy companies, corporates and SMEs within the agriculture sector, standard setting institutions, agriculture regulatory and trade institutions and other stakeholders supporting agriculture development attended.

Among the key recommendations from the forum was the need to harmonize policies and regulatory frameworks governing agro industries in the COMESA region as a way of promoting intra-regional trade.

Anchored on the theme; Promoting Sustainable Agro Industries and Supply chains in COMESA’ the dialogue provided a platform for knowledge sharing amongst the stakeholders in each of the selected commodity supply chains.

Stakeholders urged COMESA to encourage and support member states that have not already established national dairy boards or equivalent national regulatory body to do so. In this regard, the COMESA Business Council will promote exchanges and lesson-sharing between member states that have successfully established such institutions and those that wish to do so.

“Once established, the regulatory bodies should improve coordination across relevant ministries and agencies dealing with food safety and animal health. They should engage with relevant stakeholders when developing regulations to ensure that these respond to the needs and interests of private sector dairy actors in the country, including smaller actors,” the dialogue report noted.

The delegates recommended  the establishment of a regional repository to provide information on businesses and equipment sourcing from within COMESA. This will encourage more regional market linkages and intra-regional trade through local sourcing.

On horticulture, the dialogue recommended the harmonization of standards between regulatory authorities in countries with strong trade ties or partnerships towards mutual recognition of certifying bodies.

Speaking at the forum, COMESA Business Council Chief Executive Officer Ms. Sandra Uwera described competitive and sustainable Agro Industries and supply chains as the best tools for economic development and intra-regional trade.

“We seek to solve the underlying issues that are preventing market access, and also to create more consumer confidence in African products in order to increase intra- trade in Africa,” she said.

In a region where agriculture is at the center of support for the livelihoods of the rural economy and quickly taking prime space on the urban stage, Ms. Uwera said it was essential to develop strategies which can boost the competitiveness of local producers in increasing the purchase of local, quality, value added products to satisfy regional demands.

The recommendations of the dialogue will be streamlined into an advocacy position for the CBC that will feed into the upcoming COMESA Trade and Customs and policy organs meetings in 2017.

The CBC organized the forum in partnership with the African Regional Standards Organization (ARSO), the United States Agency for International Development East Africa (USAID), Pan African Quality Infrastructure (PAQI) and European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM).