Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC), in partnership with the USAID East Africa Trade and Investment Hub, on Monday launched nine East African Standards for staple foods.
The nine priority product standards reviewed were for maize (grain), wheat, milled rice, dry beans, dry soybeans, maize flour, wheat flour, sorghum flour and millet flour.
Among other aspects addressed through the revision of the standards were aflatoxin, moisture content levels and discolouration of grains.
The nine product standards for staple foods and two standards for sampling and test methods are expected to become legally binding in all EAC partner state in June 2018 and could increase grain trade between Rwanda and the rest of the East African region, according to EAGC.
Speaking at the forum, the EAGC executive director Gerald Masila said smooth adoption and application of the gazetted standards would see farmers accessing better and greater markets within the region, while consumers would be provided with safe and high-quality food grain products.
“The launch of the standards in all EAC countries is meant to ensure a level playing field in the sector and minimize the risk of food shortage in the region by allowing easy movement of grains across states, as well as providing ready market access for farmers in the region,” he said.
He added that the survey, conducted by the EAGC in 2013, revealed that safety and quality requirements, sampling and testing methods were key constraints limiting the realisation of structured grain trade within the region.
Following the gaps identified in the study, a review process was initiated, with support from the USAID Hub, which culminated in the revised harmonised 2017 EAC staple foods standards.
Jerome Ndahimana, the director of Food, Agriculture Chemistry and Environment at the Rwanda Standards Board, said that Rwanda will be a key beneficiary, as the revised standards will facilitate intra-regional grain trade by reducing standards-related technical barriers to grain trade that had previously hampered such trade.
Beatrice Uwumukiza, the director-general of Agriculture and Livestock Standards and Certification Services at the Ministry of Agriculture, said that following the harmoniSed standards, they plan to step up efforts in the area of capacity building of farmers by educating them on standards compliance as it has been realised that the majority of issues have something to do with poor farming, drying and harvesting.
“Previously, the grain standards would differ from one EAC country to another which would lead to losses during exporting. Some exporters would base on their respective national standards which would be deemed incompliant abroad. The next step is to work together with stakeholders to ensure that our products are standards are compliant across the entire value chain, with a special focus on farmers,” she noted.