Sawa Pius | July 19, 2010
The East African Community Common Market came into effect on July 1 this year. It covers Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
The Common Market imposes high import taxes on key products. For example, the import tax on maize brought in from outside the Common Market will be 50 percent. For milk it will be 60 percent, while sugar attracts a tax of 100 percent. This makes importing these products very costly. The measure aims to protect small-scale farmers and ensure good prices for their produce.
Farmers are exempt from these taxes when trading within the five countries. Yet they still need to be able to reach the markets in East Africa before they can fully benefit from the new trading regulations.
Samuel Ojeku is a farmer and coordinator of the Soroti District Farmers Association (SODIFA) in Eastern Uganda. He says farmers were losing money and sales because imported produce was cheaper than local produce. The new regulations will change this situation. SODIFA members live close enough to western Kenya to enjoy good access to markets there. “Market access goes a good long way to promote production, and as farmers we are very happy about this,” says Mr. Ojeku.
In Kibaale district, in the west of Uganda, the Kisita Area Cooperative Society includes more than 4500 farmer members. Members store their maize collectively. They wish to sell direct to the market, avoiding middlemen. But the farmers cannot find a market and are stuck with over 500 metric tonnes of maize.
Nathan Were, a market specialist from The Microfinance Support Center in Uganda, worries that the Ugandan farmers are about to harvest another 650 tonnes of maize, but have no space to store it. He calls on the UN’s World Food Program to purchase the maize. He suggests that Kenya is a good place to distribute Ugandan maize. Kenya needs maize, yet imports it from outside the region.
The Uganda National Farmers Federation says the Common Market is a good idea for the region. But improvements in infrastructure are needed. Charles Ogang, the federation’s vice-president, believes that railways and roads need improving, to link poor farmers to the big markets in the region.
However, Mr. Ogang thinks that many farmers are not yet fully aware of how the Common Market will operate. The federation is using regional agricultural trade fairs to promote its benefits to farmers.
Download the Common External Tariff Handbook as a pdf file from this page: http://www.eac.int/customs/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=41:common-external-tariff-handbook&catid=3:key-documents&Itemid=141.