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EAC protocol on pests, disease control ratified


PARLIAMENT yesterday ratified the East African Community (EAC) Sanitary and Phytosanitary Protocol (SPS) 2013 to enhance food safety.

Among others, the step will improve access to a greater choice of safe foods and provide rules for the management of aflatoxins which pose hazards to human and animal health. The EAC SPS Protocol was developed in line with Article 151 of the EAC Treaty, which requires partner states To harmonize sanitary and phytosanitary measures for pest and disease control.

Tanzania has delayed ratifying the protocol for eight years.
Agriculture minister Prof Adolf Mkenda said that ratification of the protocol would boost trade between Tanzania and other East African countries and ensure the safety of food, plants, and animals. Implementing it shall accelerate EAC zone growth, especially in the agricultural sector, he stated.

“We are expecting the protocol to boost trade in food crops between partner states and increase business opportunities as Tanzania’s products will easily gain access to EAC markets. The endorsed protocol seeks to harmonize entry/exit points inspection procedures and certification schemes to ensure market standards, so crops are delivered safely and efficiently,” he said.

Prof Mkenda said the protocol shall provide opportunities for EAC experts to cooperate in preparing standards and enforcement mechanisms in food safety, plant and animal health. EAC partner states will jointly defend the quality of agro-sector products exported to international markets, he specified threaten the country’s food security, he reiterated.

The 27th meeting of the EAC Council of Ministers held in August 2013 directed the Secretariat to adopt a multi-sectoral approach that encompasses agriculture, health, environment, trade, and
industry sectors in the implementation of the aflatoxin interventions at national and regional levels. Dr. Christine Ishengoma, the chairperson of the Agriculture, Livestock, and Water parliamentary committee urged the government to put in place strategies to ensure fair competition as there are
possibilities of the country not benefitting from the protocol.

Although Article 4(2)(b) of the protocol outlines the supervision and importation of GMOs, products of modern biotechnology and biological control agents, “the government should work on policy, laws, and regulations that would clearly state its stance on GMOs,” she emphasized. Special strategies are needed to empower farmers, livestock keepers, and traders exporting food
crops to ensure exported products meet the required EAC market standards, she said.

Contributing, Tabora North MP Almas Maige commended the government’s move to ratify the protocol as it was affecting business between Tanzania and EAC partner states. The EAC SPS
protocol will facilitate the exportation of maize and other agricultural products to Kenya, he said. Special Seats MP Rita Kabati advised the government to start working on suggestions by the committee in view of protecting the country’s food safety.