UGANDA – The Ugandan grain dealers have suspended food export to South Sudan following an ongoing trade crisis at the Nimule border over quality concerns.
According to New Vision, the suspension order follows the move by the South Sudan National Bureau of Standards (SSNBS) to impound Ugandan trucks loaded with maize grains, maize flour, and wheat on allegations of failing to pass the test for contamination with aflatoxin.
According to the Nation Millers Association, currently, more than 70 maize-laden trucks have been stranded for nearly two months after the Ugandan northern neighbor raised quality concerns.
The South Sudanese officials had earlier ruled out that the consignment was not fit for human consumption with claims that the samples had tested positive for aflatoxin.
“We detained the trucks for a very good reason because of the level of aflatoxin, especially B1 which is very dangerous and it causes cancer if it accumulates in your body”.
However, the Ugandan traders expressed concern over the decision by South Sudan to destroy maize flour estimated at shs10 billion (US$2.7M) adding that the tests done by South Sudan were not transparent.
“The number of samples (27) claimed to have been taken isn’t representative enough to generalize results on the entire consignments of over 74 trucks under detention.”
In addition, Richard Sserwadda, the chairperson of the National Millers Association expressed discontent arguing that UNBS staff were denied access to take samples by South Sudan authorities, therefore, wondering the rationale for refusing Uganda to take samples for its analysis, and yet this is a matter of Uganda’s economy.
Traders said the act of dumping/destroying food will taint Uganda’s image in the regional food market yet Kampala has proved to be a food basket in the region.
Grain millers and exporters threaten to sue governments over confiscated food items
Meanwhile, Uganda grain millers and transporters owners have threatened to drag the two governments Uganda and South Sudan to the East African Court of Justice if their maize flour is destroyed on grounds of being contaminated by aflatoxins.
The impacted grain dealers and truck drivers have given an ultimatum that the Ugandan government must cooperate with its South Sudanese counterparts to ensure the unconditional release of their goods.
“So, if the South Sudan National Bureau of Standards (SSNBS) claims that our maize flour is contaminated with aflatoxin, then who is to blame apart from the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) which allows it on the market.”
They have, therefore, threatened legal action against the Ugandan government for permitting infected corn to be sold on the market if SSBS went ahead and burnt the detained maize flour.
Ministry of Trade speaks out
The Ministry of Trade spokesperson, Irene Kiiza said the government is still engaging their counterparts in Juba for a lasting solution to the impasse.
“We have written to them but we haven’t concluded. The Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of East African Community Affairs wrote to the government of South Sudan on the matter,” Kiiza said.
She warned that destroying food would go against the East African Community trade protocols to which both Uganda and South Sudan are signatories.