Britain has committed to continue granting Kenyan products duty-free access to the UK under Economic Partnership Agreement post Brexit.
The commitment by visiting British Premier Theresa May, coming at a time her government is seeking increased trade with non-European Union (EU) nations, could deepen bilateral economic relationships between Kenya and the UK. There were fears trade deals signed with Britain could change after Brexit.
The commitment, though subject to new legal realignments in UK, is good news for Kenyan farmers given that agriculture is a major pillar of the Big Four development agenda and the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner and source of jobs.
For Kenya, however, trading with Britain post-Brexit could be a blessing in disguise for fresh produce exporters currently between a rock and a hard place, in regard to selling goods in Europe due to strict health standards, particularly. The stringent measures were put in place by EU in 2012 after changing legislation to allow more inspections to verify exporters’ compliance with set quality standards.
It is estimated Kenya’s horticultural exports to EU were intercepted 29 times, meaning the country’s chances of being expunged from the EU’s quality watch list have been minimised.
May’s promise could also cushion Kenya from EU’s demands under Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), which has been in limbo since some East African Community member State—Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania—have refused to sign.
EPAs are meant to guarantee the EAC duty-and-quota free access to the EU market in exchange for gradually opening of up to 80 per cent of the region’s market to European products.
EAC exports to EU are mainly coffee, cut flowers, tea, tobacco, fish and vegetables while imports from the EU are dominanty machinery and mechanical appliances, equipment and parts, vehicles and pharmaceutical products.
Kenya accounts for 27 per cent of fresh produce and 56 per cent of black tea market in the UK. Britain is the second most export destination in Europe, after Netherlands. It imported goods worth Sh36.56 billion from Kenya between January and October last year.
Despite the good news, Kenya ought to press for more exports to the region and value addition as opposed to focusing on exporting unprocessed goods.