Uganda will not lift its ban on the importation of beef from Kenyan any time soon.
Kampala claims that although Kenya has ruled out the presence of mad cow disease in the country, its imported cattle feeds could be contaminated with the disease.
Uganda banned the importation of beef from Kenya in 1997, claiming that it was not sure that Kenyan beef met the required standards to be exported to Kampala.
Kenya disputes the claims saying that its biggest trade partner is engaging in unfair protectionist practices, including the use of non-tariff barriers.
The EAC Sectoral Council on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment raised the concern early this year that the Ugandan ban on beef from Kenya negated the free trade principles of the EAC treaty. It appointed a task force from the two countries to help resolve the dispute.
The task force held a bilateral meeting that resolved to inspect all the animal feeds coming into the country through the Port of Mombasa.
“The experts who were drawn from the ministries of Livestock of the two countries, after inspection, concluded that the feeds were safe and Kenya could resume its beef exports to Uganda,” said Kenyan EAC Economic Affairs Director Richard Sindiga, who was a member of the task force.
He added that the agreement was that Kenya could start exporting only its meat, and not the internal organs like the intestines.
“However, the Ugandan Ministry of Livestock has disputed that, saying they need to carry out further inspection of all the Kenyan borders, claiming that the animal feeds could be coming in through other neighbouring countries like Somalia and Ethiopia,” said Mr Sindiga.
A date will therefore will be set when these inspections will take place and a final decision made.
The EAC sectoral council has however indicated that the dispute may require political goodwill to be resolved. Past attempts to solve the problem through bilateral talks have failed.
Although the leading Kenyan beef processor Farmer’s Choice still supplies its beef products like sausages to Uganda, the company has set up shop in Uganda through a subsidiary known as Your Choice due to the ban on cross-border shipments.
Statistics show that Uganda has about 12 million cattle compared with Kenya’s 40 million and Tanzania’s 33 million.
Kenya has stepped up the fight against disease outbreaks in its livestock sector with the creation of disease-free zones to meet required sanitary standards, a concept the country borrowed from Botswana, one of Africa’s leading beef exporters.
According to a recent report from the Kenya Livestock Marketing Council, the country is forecast to become East Africa’s leading beef exporter this year.
The sector has an expanding herd that has not suffered major drought conditions, efficiency improvements, increased slaughter houses, more hygienic standards and price-competitiveness on the international market.
In Africa, Kenya exports meat to Tanzania, Sudan, Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia. A large part of the country’s exports also goes to the Middle East and the South Asian market, with much of it consumed in Bangladesh.