Uganda and Kenya are both being accused of trade protectionism, with Kampala denying market access to Kenya’s beef and Nairobi restricting the amount of sugar imports from Uganda.

Ugandan authorities are reluctant to lift the ban on Kenyan beef because the matter is still a “very sensitive one.”

The EastAfrican has established that politics rather than technical concerns is at the centre of the Uganda-Kenya beef and sugar talks. Kenyan beef traders have been out of the Ugandan market for over 15 years.

Meanwhile, Kenya has sent a verification team to ascertain that Ugandan traders are not repackaging sugar imported from elsewhere.

Officials present at a recent meeting between Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda reported that they had agreed to lift the ban on Kenyan beef in exchange for market access for Uganda’s sugar.

Senior officials in Uganda’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Co-operatives said that Kampala is still reluctant to open up its market.

However, although an official ban still stands, Kenyan beef and beef products are being sold in Uganda, and Ugandan sugar is reportedly finding its way into the Kenyan market, mainly through Kisumu.

“We are aware Kenyan meat is being sold in our market, especially in supermarkets, but it is sold unofficially. However, officially we have not yet allowed their meat here,” added another official, who asked not be named.

Trade Ministry Permanent Secretary Julius Onen said he did not have the latest information. “I think you should talk to the Ministry of Agriculture, they have better information,” Mr Onen said.

Minister in charge of Veteran Affairs Bright Rwamirama blamed Kenya for the continued ban.

“We agreed that Kenya should prove that they were not importing beef from countries prone to mad cow disease, but they have failed to do so. The ban is just a precautionary measure,” said Mr Rwamirama.