The Hub is collaborating with the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat and Eastern Africa Grain Council to harmonize regional implementation guidelines for the sampling, testing and grading of cereals and pulses in the EAC. The partnership recently facilitated a meeting in Mombasa, Kenya to deliberate and address issues emanating from various sampling and grading procedures in cereals and pulses in the region. Representatives from all EAC Partner States attended.
The purpose of the Mombasa meeting was to receive and document the wide variations caused by the application of different sampling and test methods from the partner states (both public and private sector) and to review the variance in test methods applied by grain actors, including those applying international standards (ISO and GAFTA) methods. The Mombasa meeting was part of a four-meeting process that started in late February and is expected to end early May 2016 in Tanzania.
The next step is to validate the findings above and then develop regional implementation guidelines that capture best practices and parameters for sampling and grading procedures, complete with recommended test methods.
“Harmonization of cereals and pulses standards is a key step in promoting regional trade, cuts compliance costs and simplifies the process hence promoting regional trade. If a product is tested in one country it will be accepted across the region. Harmonization of standards provides a common understanding in public and private labs with regards to sampling, testing and grading of cereals and pulses,” said Tanzania Bureau of Standards Quality Assurance Officer, Ms. Sambwe Fundikira.
“The EAC Secretariat is committed to have the standards harmonized by mid-2016. There are capacity issues and technicalities and we are working hand in hand with Partner States to overcome the challenges,” said East African Community Secretariat Standards Expert, Ms Stella Apolot.
The first harmonization of staples foods standards in the EAC was done and completed in 2013 through the support of USAID Competitiveness and Trade Expansion program. Following the gazettment of the standards by EAC in 2013, the implementation of the approved standards commenced. In the course of implementation of the standards, a few challenges prompted stakeholders to call for review of the Standards. One of the major gaps identified was a lack of consistency in application of sampling and test methods by laboratories, leading to discrepancies in the test results. This is also exacerbated by the fact that several methods are applied at any given time within the laboratories in the EAC region, all citing the EAS 2013 standards.