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Kenya–Tanzania SPS dispute on flowers in transit resolved

10 June 2013

In April 2013, it was announced that Kenya had lifted its ban introduced in May 2011 on Tanzanian cut-flower exports via Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. This followed multiple rounds of negotiations and confirmation that effective measures were being taken to combat the 11 pests identified in the Pest Risk Analysis that was completed in September 2012.

However, according to the Tanzania Horticulture Association, the ban has resulted in Tanzanian flower farmers losing “more than five” key customers of cut roses in the UK, Australia, Japan, Russia and Italy.

A report in the Kenyan Star newspaper in April noted that “flower growers in Kenya are seeking to consolidate new markets in Asia and the US as airlines begin direct flights to these destinations” (airfreight costs can account for up to 50% of the import price). These markets “now account for up to 10 per cent of total flower exports annually” from Kenya. According to Kenya’s Horticultural Crops Development Agency, “Japan, South Korea, Russia and the US are among the new buyers taking up more of the Kenyan produce.” Market opportunities have also been identified in Ghana, the DRC and Nigeria.

The report notes that in the first 2 months of 2013, Kenyan cut-flower production increased by 8%. Kenya accounts for one-third of international flower produce.

Editorial comment

In the past, resolving sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) disputes among EAC members has not always been given priority by hard-pressed national institutions, particularly when there is no domestic constituency pushing for an early resolution in the country imposing the restrictions. This reality can give rise to tit for tat measures aimed at ensuring a reordering of national institutional priorities.

These disputes illustrate the need for commonly agreed regional rules for resolution of SPS disputes, with specified time frames for responding and acting at each stage in the process. The rules also need to be backed up by an independent compliance monitoring mechanism.

However, it is important when dealing with SPS issues to recognise the different technical and human resource capacities that exist in different EAC countries. This could advantageously be backed up by a programme of capacity-building measures to enhance mutual confidence in neighbouring states’ SPS control capabilities.

Such measures are of growing importance, given the increasingly dynamic nature of global trade relationships and the increasingly common practice of multiple retailers of maintaining diverse sources of supply in order to ensure that consumer demand is constantly met. This practice tends to mean that even relatively short disruptions can lead to contracts being lost as replacement suppliers are identified. In this context, if new suppliers that stepped in to cover the shortfall in Tanzanian supplies happened to be Kenyan, this should come as no particular surprise, since this would be consistent with retailers’ multi-sourcing strategies.


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