– The government said the tilapia import ban was set to kick off in January 2019
– Kenya had already written to respective firms indicating cancellation of business
– China expressed displeasure in the ban and threatened to impose trade sanctions
– Government backtracked and said it was developing frameworks of handling tilapia imports
The government has bowed to pressure from China and suspended a recent ban it had imposed on tilapia fish imports from the Asian nation and which was set to kick off in January 2019.
The ban was made public and the same relayed to the Chinese embassy by the Department of Fisheries on Wednesday, October 24.
But in another statement issued on Monday, October 29, the department's acting director general Susan Imende lifted the embargo to allow for what she termed as consultations between Nairobi and Beijing.
"This is to inform you that the same had been put to stay to allow further consultations, assessments, and development of frameworks for handling tilapia imports," the statement read.
The move which saw the government quickly shift its position has raised questions as to whether its is aimed at cooling the raging trade wars between the two countries.
This unfolds even as President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to make another trip to Shanghai for the China International Import Expo set to start on Monday, November 5.
Earlier, the Chinese government had threatened to withhold funding for the second phase of Naivasha-Kisumu Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to protest against the ban.
Speaking to a section of Kenyan politicians on Tuesday, October 30, China's Acting Ambassador Li Xuhang confirmed Kenya's department of fisheries had served their consulate with a letter imposing the ban of importation of fish from its market.
"We have received a letter from the department of fisheries canceling all fish importation applications from China. The move is shocking and we could respond to it the way we did with the US after it imposed tariffs on goods from our markets," Xuhang said.
The department of fisheries was prompted to announce the ban after Uhuru's order to government officials to devise creative means to ensure Chinese fish which had flooded local market does not get into the country.
This also came amid concerns that Chinese nationals have deeply infiltrated the local job market and they have taken up even casual jobs.
In a move to mitigate this, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua said he would table a proposal in the National Assembly to bar foreigners from being awarded tenders valued at less than KSh 1 billion.
Gachagua said the proposal would go a long way in cushioning Kenyans from unfair job and resources competition waged by Chinese and other foreigners.
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