Uganda has demanded a review of a 1996 law on mad cow disease before lifting restrictions on beef imports from Kenya.
According to a November report on Non-tariff barriers, (NTB) to trade in the East African Community (EAC), Uganda says Kenya still needs to ensure that Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease cannot spread to Uganda before it fully opens up its borders to Kenyan beef.
According to The Daily Nation of Kenya, "Uganda held a bilateral meeting with Kenya on trade on beef and beef products and the way forward for improving trade in these products between the two partner states and the ministers decided that Kenya reviews Legal Notice No. 69 of 1996 to include enforcement procedures for the control of BSE," reads the report in part.
In 1997, Uganda started restricting trade in cattle products amid fears that a mad cow disease epidemic in Europe would hit East Africa and spread to the country. Kenya was roped in the ban as Uganda claimed Nairobi's meat standards did not meet those required by Kampala.
Although Uganda has since eased the ban on pork and dairy products, beef and beef products still face challenges entering the Ugandan market. Industry stakeholders in Kenya say that the issue has ceased to be one of health concerns.
"Scientists in both Kenya and Uganda agree that the danger of BSE is long gone. These decisions are not based on science, they are political decisions. Perhaps they are simply preserving their trade," said Kenya's director of veterinary services, Dr Maina Ithondeka.
The report from the EAC notes that pressure from local businesses not to recognise products from the region is a key bottleneck to the process.
Despite these reported restrictions, the Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) told the Daily Nation that it was still able to export beef products to Uganda.
"To us, these are historical issues. We sold a consignment of corn beef to Uganda last week and we expect to continue doing so," said KMC managing commissioner Ibrahim Haji Isaak.
Statistics show that Uganda has a cattle population of about 12 million. In contrast, Kenya and Tanzania have populations of 40 million and 33 million respectively. Kenya already exports meat to Tanzania, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and parts of South Asia.
The motivation to protect domestic markets might also be behind a decision by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) to impose high taxes on Kenyan rice exports.
According to the NTB report, URA has slapped a 75 per cent duty on rice wholly produced in Kenya. Normally, this tariff is only reserved to imports coming from outside the EAC bloc.