LAHORE - More than 600 containers of Pakistani rice have been stuck up at Kenyan ports by Kenyan Customs Authorities for the last several weeks due to the issue of Phytosanitary protocols.

The Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan Chairman Ch Samee Ullah Naeem told The Nation that shipments made by the Pakistani exporters had been stuck up at Customs clearing point of Kenya ports despite the fact that exporters had paid all local taxes and duties, besides providing Phytosanitary certificate to the authorities.

"Our rice exporters have provided all kinds of Phytosanitary certificates to Kenyan ports authorities but they are not satisfied. We have now approached the concerned department in Pakistan and ministry to intervene and save our members from the heavy cost of demurrage."

Samee Ullah asked the government of Pakistan to approach the Kenyan authorities to press them to release hundreds of rice containers held at these ports without any solid reason. "The REAP is also in contact with Kenyan officials to discuss the problems faced by our members," said Samee.

He said that the Reap delegation is in Kenya and has met with Kenya Bureau of Standard officials but the problem seems to aggravate as authorities in Nairobi, Kenya have not instructed their counterparts in Mombasa to come to a resolution by resampling of the containers in their presence. This is highly unjustified step by Kenyan authorities, he lamented.

"In present case, importers are facing loss in the form of demurrage bills as a result of which our potential business to Kenya will also be suffered greatly."

Samee Ullah said that Pakistan is one of the largest exporters of rice to Kenya. He said that Pakistan rice exports to Kenya have increased due to aggressive marketing by REAP members and exporters. He said that issues the importers are facing in Kenya will have a negative effect on exporters in Pakistan in the form of late payments which will lead to a slowdown in exports.

Unfortunately, the Kenyan authorities don’t have the backend infrastructure to expedite the exercise. They have only one lab in Nairobi to do the heavy metal tests whereas our cargo is stuck in Mombasa. This is delaying the testing processes to confirm compliances.

On one hand phytosanitary conditions (Aflatoxin, Pesticides & Microbiology) are tested in Nairobi and on the other hand the broken percentage is verified in Mombasa. Rice is still not allowed to enter into Kenya, which is unfortunate.

“This has jeopardised our rice exports to Kenya. We want level playing field but it seems Kenyan authorities have decided otherwise. Despite the intervention by Pakistan High Commission and Commercial Councellor, Kenyan Inspection isn’t cooperating at all. Kenya is considered as single country biggest market for Pakistan rice products and we can’t afford to lose this market.”

He said that Pakistan is second biggest importer of Kenyan tea and we have trade imbalance with them. Government of Pakistan has always provided level playing field to Kenyan tea exporters for marketing their valued product in Pakistan and expect the same from Kenyan government. A better step would be to allow importation and sampling be performed at buyers’ warehouses for conformances before commodity is allowed to sell in commercial market. The sampling methodology and mechanism should be fairly determined to give confidence to the exporters.

“The current activity seems carrying vested interests by restricting our rice market in Kenya. Prime Minister, Imran Khan, already urged in speech that we will have reciprocal ties with all nations, give respect get one, give level playing field and get same in return but the message should be clearly given to Kenyan Foreign Office straight and blunt, he demanded.

Just to remind that in February 2018, Kenyan authorities sealed warehouses of Pakistan rice importers and arrested Pakistani rice marketers based on allegation of money laundering, terrorist financing and fake passport, fake visa without evidence. Then Ambassador of Pakistan in Kenya had successful meeting with Kenyan officials on the fake charges of terrorism raised on Pakistani rice businessmen in Kenya and in turn all were released.

Chaudhry Samee Ullah demanded that reciprocal protection may be sought for Kenyan products destined to Pakistan market. Our consumer health and protection is equally important and we must take reciprocal measures to protect our consumers from any inferior quality Kenyan products being imported in Pakistan. Until, matter isn’t tackled at Foreign Office level, Pakistan risks losing out bigger share of our rice exports (475,000 tons - 12 percent of total exports) that in turn would enhance our trade deficit and imbalance.