US food firms to visit Kenya scouting for trade opportunities

US food firms to visit Kenya scouting for trade opportunities
Published date:
Saturday, 29 October 2022
Author:
Brian Ngugi

Representatives from 32 US agribusiness firms are set to jet into Kenya on Sunday as part of an American government delegation scouting for trade opportunities.

The US food firms are looking for new and expanded markets in Kenya for their crops. Kenya currently faces food insecurity and also wants to seal a trade deal with Americas.

Nairobi has been pressured by Washington to allow access to its genetically modified (GM) food and crop products and this month gave approval to GM imports, providing a huge market opportunity for American companies.

Kenya lifted a decades-old ban on GM crops in response to the worst drought to affect the East African region in 40 years, with authorities hoping it will improve crop yields and food security.

“I am excited to lead this delegation to foster stronger ties and build economic partnerships between the United States, Kenya and Tanzania as both of these countries present a growing opportunity for US agricultural exports,” said US Deputy Agriculture Secretary Jewel Bronaugh in a statement ahead of the visit.

“This trade mission will provide firsthand knowledge of market conditions and opportunities in East Africa and expand awareness about US agricultural and food products in the region.”

During the week-long trade mission, US participants will meet with potential Kenyan importers, processors and distributors to establish trade relationships and expand opportunities for US agricultural exports.

“In addition, US federal and state officials will engage with government counterparts on trade-related policies that will advance US interests and strengthen bilateral relations in the region,” said the United States Department of Agriculture.

Among those expected on the trip are officials from the agriculture departments of US food baskets in Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon and Nebraska.

The powerful Washington-based US Grains Council which promotes US genetically-engineered crops including maize, barley and wheat in markets outside of the US is also expected.

The lobby recently hailed President William Ruto’s decision to lift the ban on GM crops.

“This is an encouraging development,” said Kurt Shultz, its senior director of global strategies following the end of the ban.

“The Kenyan government is responding to the reality that its farmers and livestock industry need new tools to increase their agricultural productivity.

“Lifting this ban will enhance domestic production in Kenya and allow Kenya to participate in the global corn trade market where 90 per cent of the corn and soybeans are GM, making it easier for imports to backfill their needs in times of crop shortfalls, such as increasingly recurring droughts.”

 The US government had prior to the recent lifting of the ban slammed Kenya for its reluctance to approve imported genetically modified foods and crops saying the measure is restricting its exports.

 The US Trade Representative’s office (USTR) had said in its annual report that approval by Nairobi could boost agricultural purchases by Kenya from the US, which is the world’s biggest producer of GM crops.

Kenya had been reluctant to approve the import or planting of genetically modified food crops since November 2012, amid an ongoing debate about the safety of GMOs, which are touted to have several advantages such as higher yields and resistance to drought and pests.

“Kenya’s GMOs ban has blocked both US government food aid and agricultural exports derived from agricultural biotechnology,” the USTR said in its annual trade barriers list published in late March.

“The restriction affects US exports of processed and unprocessed foods and feed ingredients, such as soy, corn, and distiller dried grains with solubles.”

The visit of the US firms comes at a time the Joe Biden administration has signalled the resumption of stalled talks for a free trade agreement between Nairobi and Washington, amid growing unease in Kenya about the delay to conclude the deal.

Kenya seeks to seal the deal before the expiry of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which allows Sub-Saharan African countries to export thousands of products to the United States without tariffs or quotas until 2025.

Share this article

View related news articles

Kenyan manufacturers eye US market in growth plan

Manufactures in Kenya are banking on the pending trade deal with the US to grow the sectors’ contribution to the GDP and create jobs. The sector targets a 20 per cent contribution to economy by  2030. This will be driven by an increase in production of high quality products that will help expand supply and grow exports, the Kenya Association of Manufactures (KAM) has said. “AGOA has provided a significant market for Kenya’s...

07 November 2022

US DOA leads trade delegation to Kenya as country embraces GM crops

Representatives from 32 United States agribusiness firms arrived in Kenya on October 30 as part of an American government delegation scouting for trade opportunities. The US food firms are looking for new and expanded markets in Kenya for their crops. Kenya currently faces food insecurity and also wants to seal a trade deal with Americas. Nairobi has been pressured by Washington to allow access to its genetically modified (GM) food and...

06 November 2022

Kenya President Ruto’s warm relationship with US likely to expedite trade deal

Kenya and the US will be taking another shot at the dragging trade talks with hopes of reaching a deal before the year 2025. This is when the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) lapses. AGOA eliminates import tariffs on goods from eligible African nations, with its coming to an end putting countries under pressure to secure a pact that will see them continue to enjoy preferential trade terms. President William Ruto’s warm...

04 November 2022

Kenya president Ruto: Country ready for more trade deals with the US

President Ruto has said Kenya is ready for more trade deals with the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) program, which gives Kenya and 40 other sub-Saharan African countries duty-free access to the US market for over 6,000 products. Ruto, who hosted a US delegation at State House, Nairobi, on Monday, said the country has plenty more to offer the United States as a trade partner. "Kenya largely exports apparel products to...

31 October 2022

Kenya's new president: US has overtaken the UK as Kenya's premier trading partner

President Ruto has said the United States has overtaken the United Kingdom to become Kenya's premier trading partner. Ruto, who spoke during the Mashujaa Day celebrations at Uhuru Gardens on Thursday, said Kenya will continue strategic engagements with key development partners like the US and the UK, which has been the country’s premier trading partner for a long time. "We also remain devoted to our strategic engagements with key...

20 October 2022

If duties were eliminated, 'strong potential for US red meat in Kenya'

The U.S. Meat Export Federation recently submitted comments (  see document alongside) to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on the U.S.-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership. Cheyenne McEndaffer, USMEF senior director of export services, says that USMEF highlighted several non-tariff barriers and potential trade obstacles, including concerns about Kenya's burdensome import license system,...

30 September 2022

Kenya businesses 'want continued duty-free access'

The Biden administration has been clear that none of its trade negotiations cover tariffs. That includes talks with the U.K., the EU and the Indo-Pacific region, as well as the Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership talks with Kenya. In Kenya’s case, the country already has duty-free access to the United States for most of its goods under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. But the Biden administration has not said yet...

26 September 2022

Concerns expressed that Kenya deal with US could hurt regional trade

The pursuit of a new trade pact between Washington and Kenya is eliciting old fears on whether it could hurt adherence to obligations under the East African Community, and hence continental ambitions for more commerce. The US has confirmed it is willing to restart negotiations on a future trade pact with Nairobi once a substantive government is formed by President William Ruto. And although Washington says any trade agreements in Africa will...

24 September 2022

US concerns with doing business with Kenya

The United States of America has expressed interest in resuming trade with the East African nation of Kenya. The resumption of trade between both nations is a welcomed development according to both parties, assuming the interest of both players is protected.  Tension surmounting between these two nations results from the potential tax that could be imposed on their businesses should they commence trade with each other.  The US has...

24 September 2022

US overtakes Uganda to become the largest market for Kenyan goods

The United States has overtaken Uganda to become the largest market for Kenyan goods, according to a report by Business Daily. Citing official data, the publication reported that Kenya’s exports to the US grew by 47 percent to Sh38.8 billion in the first half of the year, ending Uganda’s 10-year dominance as the leading export destination for Kenya-made goods. In the period under review, Ugandan consumers bought Sh36.2 billion worth of...

22 September 2022