Chickens and eggs at a poultry farm. 

| File | Nation Media Group

Inside Kenya's meat and eggs deal with US that sparked fury with farmers

Poultry producers have protested an alleged push by the US to have Kenya open up its market to finished agricultural products in the ongoing negotiations for new trade and investment deals between the two nations.

The Kenyan producers say they learned of the push for the US to export finished poultry products to Kenya under the proposed US-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP) during a stakeholders’ forum convened by the State Department of Trade.

The Poultry Breeders Association of Kenya (PBAK) — the lobby for breeders, hatcheries, and meat processors — says the Trade Department has, however, failed to provide the draft texts of the US proposals.

This is despite the lobby being invited to the forum ahead of the third in-person round of talks focused on agriculture, good regulatory practices, and workers’ rights and protections.

The Trade Department has cited a “confidentiality agreement” with the American negotiators for not sharing the draft text, according to the group.

“It is inconceivable that draft texts with far-reaching sectoral and economy-wide ramifications can be deemed confidential and hence deny industry players the opportunity to promote and protect their interests during the text-based negotiations,” PBAK writes in a memorandum to Trade Principal Secretary Alfred K’Ombudo.

Mr K’Ombudo leads the team of Kenyan negotiators in the ongoing talks.

“Importation of finished poultry products that are heavily subsidised pose danger to our industry. Texts that seek to address Kenya’s offensive interests will no doubt benefit from input provided by the poultry value chain and other agricultural stakeholders,” says PBAK.

Washington says its proposals on agriculture in the latest round of talks between April 2 and 12 in Washington aimed to “facilitate trade for agricultural producers, to advance food security, promote sustainable production, as well as to encourage cooperation in the areas of innovation and technology”.

The texts, the US Trade Representative Office (USTR) adds, seek to create a framework where the two countries will collaborate and share best practices and “explore science- and evidence-based solutions tailored to the conditions of Kenya and the United States”.

“The proposed text is aimed at increasing transparency and regulatory certainty for agricultural exporters and importers,” USTR wrote in the summary of its proposals on agriculture on April 5.

“It also encourages US-Kenyan cooperation to promote innovation, fair trade, and individualised approaches to advance sustainability goals, with consideration of the needs of small producers.”

PBAK, however, says there has been little transparency and public participation on the Kenyan side contrary to articles 10(2a) and 10(2c) of the Constitution. Similar concerns were raised last year by the Kenya Small-Scale Farmers Forum.

This is despite the USTR’s office having collected public views from American stakeholders on the proposed deal with Kenya between August and September 2022.

Washington has meanwhile cited “complex, nontransparent and costly requirements for the importation of all meat, dairy, and poultry products” by Kenya as a barrier to trade and investment.

“The DVS [Director of Veterinary Services for Kenya] issues the no-objection letter for meat, dairy, and poultry products at its discretion on a case-by-case basis,” US Trade Representative Katherine Tai wrote in 2024 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE) earlier this month.

“Importers have reported that the DVS has at times provided them with non-sanitary-related grounds for denying permits, such as the local availability of a similar product. The DVS does not always provide written justification for not issuing the letter.”

Nairobi and Washington are locked in bilateral negotiations whose terms negotiators from both sides started stitching together in July 2022 before the end of former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s term in office.

Kenya has long sought a full free trade agreement with the US to replace the more-than-two-decade-old African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) deal, but progress was dragged by regime change in both countries.