Much political debate has been waged in Kenya this month over a proposed trade agreement that would allow Uganda to export cheap sugar to the neighboring East African country, but the deal doesn't exist, Kenyan leaders said. Kenya never signed such an agreement with Uganda because of regulations in the East African Community, an intergovernmental organization of five East African countries, that already legally allow for sugar from Uganda to be sold on the Kenyan market, said Adan Mohammed, acting Kenyan agriculture cabinet secretary, according to media outlet AllAfrica.

"The government wishes to clearly state that no trade agreement or any other deal was signed between Kenya and Uganda," said Mohammed, who added that the Kenyan government was concerned about reports of the trade agreement. It was immediately unclear why it took so long for the government to say there was no trade agreement, which was first reported more than a week ago. The Kenyan government released a statement earlier this month during President Uhuru Kenyatta's visit to Uganda, but it did not mention any budding sugar trade deal.

Perhaps there was discussion of a deal during that visit, as Kenyatta defended the importation of sugar from Uganda instead of another country, according to the Daily Monitor. Former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga had opposed a deal between Kenya and Uganda, and planned rallies against the move, a Kenyan news organization reported

“We would rather import sugar from Uganda than Brazil to support our own and promote regional integration,” the Daily Monitor quoted Kenyatta as saying. 

When Kenyans first heard of the deal around the time of the visit, some said it had the potential to hurt local sugar millers, according to Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster. Supporters of Ugandan sugar imports said it would help drive up competition between the neighboring African nations, while others have said that Kenya’s sugar industry is less efficient than that of Uganda.

Kenya in 2012 imposed a ban on sugar imported from Uganda after traders were discovered substituting and repackaging cheap sugar from other countries for international sale, according to Afrika Reporter, a news website covering eastern and central Africa. Kenya lifted the ban in the early part of this year in order to give sugar manufacturers better opportunities, but importing was still limited.