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Grain Council Suspects Politics In South Sudan Rejections

The Grain Council of Uganda has urged the government and the private sector leadership to formalize the agricultural export sub-sector as one of the ways to overcome hiccups in trade. This comes as Ugandan grain exporters to South Sudan are staring at losses following a decision by the authorities in Juba to block almost 100 trucks ferrying maize products from Uganda, about a month ago.

The Grain Council, government officials, and commenters have sensed ill motives in the rejection, with some wondering how the South Sudan authorities came up with the conclusion that the products contained high amounts of aflatoxin. Robert Mwanje, the Council Chairman said they are not ruling out political motives in the standoff, but adds that many challenges facing export trade are due to the fact that the sub-sector is informal.

He wants a structure that will, for example, allow only graded grain to be exported especially as the country gets ready for the African Continental Free Trade Area.

This comes after Frederick Gume, State Minister Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives had challenged the council, which is the biggest grouping of formal grain exporters, to improve the storage system in the country. This, according to him will go a long way in improving the quality of agricultural exports and attracting and maintaining the bigger markets.

At the weekend, Simon Deng, South Sudan’s Ambassador to Uganda said he did not believe the blockage had to do with standards, but an intention of disrupting relations between the two countries by some individuals. At the events to mark the country’s 12th independence, Deng said his government would not allow such individuals to succeed.

Minister Gume explained that several trucks have been cleared after the products were found to be of acceptable quality standards after testing them. The remaining products will undergo tests by a combined team of experts from the Uganda National Bureau of Standards, the South Sudan National Bureau of Standards, and the East African Standards Committee.

He said those that are found not to meet the standards will not be allowed into Uganda but will be destroyed at the expense of the exporters.

But speaking at a dialogue between the cooperative movement leaders and financiers in Kampala, Mwanje insisted that some of the trucks that have been stopped from proceeding had products that were within the acceptable standards as laid down, the reason he suspects political motives.

But he also said that in many cases, it is the traders from the neighboring countries who purchase the grain from farmers directly and brand it sub-standard. However, Mwanje said that amidst all this, everyone along the value chain from farmers to exporters must play their part for the sake of the markets, adding that in the Grain Council of Uganda, they practice self-regulation.

Following the release of the first 26 Ugandan trucks on Saturday, Odrek Rwabwogo, Chairman Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development, appealed to the private sector of Uganda to take action on its members to prevent the destruction of the image entire sector. “It is time to retool and re-discipline our institutions to act better and faster in the interest of citizens. I thank our brothers and sisters from South Sudan who were kind to listen to the voice of reason,” he said.

-URN

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