The East African Community (EAC) Ministerial Council approved nine revised EAC Grain Standards after a record-quick revision, approval, and gazetting process led by USAID Hub-grantee Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC). Grain quality inconsistencies among EAC countries have been a major constraint on formal regional trade. The revised standards will improve the flow of quality grain commodities from surplus to deficit regions and, in turn, boost the EAC’s economic growth, resilience and integration.
The first harmonization of EAC’s standards in staples foods was completed in 2013 under support from the USAID COMPETE project. Following the gazettement of the East African Standards 2013 (EAS 2013), the implementation of the approved standards commenced in earnest throughout the EAC Partner States through collaborative efforts of the respective National Standards Bureaus and the grain industry stakeholder institutions.
In July 2014, EAC stakeholders gathered in Entebbe, Uganda to discuss the development of staple foods implementation guidelines and address inconsistent application, interpretation, sampling and test methods as outlined in EAS 2013 staple foods product specifications. The July 2014 meeting prompted the stakeholders to call for the review of the newly approved standards. With support from SIDA and the DFID-funded FoodTrade East and Southern Africa project, the EAGC conducted a gap analysis study on the implementation of EAS 2013. The study identified the existence of technical gaps, inconsistent sampling and test methods, limited capacity for graders, lack of visual guides and lack of standards awareness materials.
The EAC Secretariat and EAC Partner States later validated the report and submitted it during the joint EAC/EAGC regional standards meeting held in August 2015. The meeting resulted with the following recommendations:
a)The EAC Secretariat should initiate the revision of the EAS 2013 Staple Foods Standards based on the recommendations as a matter of urgency; and
b)The EAGC should take the lead in coordinating the development of curriculum and training materials on sampling, testing, and grading through MOUs signed with the Partner States to spearhead the development of a certification scheme for graders.
With USAID Hub support, the EAGC has now completed both of the above tasks, improving the enabling environment for regional trade in staple foods.