Zambia has now allowed imports of Uganda’s Lato Milk, whose sale had been halted in Kenya due to quality concerns.

The agreement opens up a new market for Ugandan dairy farmers that is currently unavailable to their Kenyan counterparts, as Zambia banned milk imports from Kenya 13 years ago, citing quality concerns.

Pearl Dairy Farms Limited has suffered significant losses since Kenyan authorities blocked Uganda’s milk and dairy products on December 27, 2019, on the grounds that Kampala lacks the capacity to produce the commodity that it claims, claiming that a portion of the exports is imported to Uganda as powdered milk before being reconstituted.

The firm is the largest processor of milk in Uganda with a daily capacity of 800,000 litres. Its brand was popular in Kenya and retailed at a lower cost when compared with local ones before the ban.

Uganda’s minister of agriculture, animal industry and fisheries Frank Tumwebaze said countries that doubt Uganda’s capacity to produce quality products should visit the country and ascertain for themselves that it is able to meet the quality demands.

“People deny us market for our milk and dairy products on account of quality…we are ready to be inspected. Pearl Dairy is an example of one of the good investments. Let them come,” he said.

“Zambia sent their inspectors here and that is why they were able to certify that this is a good product for their market.”

A Kenyan delegation is slated to visit Uganda this month to discuss the impasse on milk trade between the two countries as well as carry out a verification mission to authenticate if Uganda has the ability to produce surplus and quality products.

Countries have been leaning on quality reasons to bar milk imports, a move seen by some economic experts as a form of protectionism of their own dairy sectors.

Zambia’s ban on Kenyan milk imports 13 years ago followed a petition by the Zambian Dairy Processors Association (ZDPA), which claimed that Kenya raw milk exceeds its national total bacteria count (TBC) maximum of 200,000 per millilitre. Kenya follows the global benchmark of one million TBC per millilitre.