A deal to export Kenyan meat products to China will pump Sh500bn extra into the Kenyan economy in the next five years and diversify exports markets, at a time when Kenya is struggling with sour relationships in its traditional Middle East market, where it stands accused of exporting poor quality meat products that fail to meet food health standards and Islamic dietary guidelines.
The deal, signed by the Ministry of Livestock, Mercbima International of Kenya, and Loyalty International Trading company of China will see Mercbima buy various meat products including beef from the government owned Kenya Meat Commission (KMC), pork from Farmers Choice and chicken from Kenchic Limited.
Under the deal, to kick off before year end, farmers will supply the meat to KMC, which will be measured in kilos. KMC registered farmers will be paid Sh50 more per kilo than they earn in the market, once their meat is approved for export.
Loyalty International of China is seeking to close the growing shortfall in the meat supply in China - as demand continues rising but farmers shift from livestock farming due to dwindling pasture as more land is transformed for construction purposes.
It will further supply the Ministry of Livestock with assorted livestock feeds that the Ministry of Livestock intends to distribute to farmers at a subsidised rate to insulate them from the unprecedented rise in the price of commercial feeds, which have more than doubled in price in the last three years.
Buffeted by this increase, farmers have opted for cheaper farming options like horticulture causing a 25 per cent net drop in meat production last year. Matters have further been complicated by the poor returns farmers get from the sale of livestock or livestock products, with a mature cow now selling at Sh6,000 to most traders.
Against this backdrop, the new partnership is being hailed as a breath of life to the livestock industry, coming hard on the heels of a string of export bans in Kenya's traditional export markets. Rogue traders have been exploiting Kenya Meat Commission abattoirs to slaughter a few animals, only to get the requisite certification, which they have been using to camouflage meat products from uncertified sources.
In April this year Dubai banned a Kenyan meat merchant who was using a fake licence from the state-owned meat processor, which is the sole accredited meat processor in the country allowed to supply meat products to the United Arab Emirates ,which constitutes Kenya’s top beef export destination.
The European Union also banned the importation of Kenyan beef due to food safety concerns as a result of livestock diseases like the mad cow disease in the country, especially in arid and semi-arid areas of Kenya which supply about 60 per cent of the animal meat market.
Uganda banned the importation of beef from Kenya in 1997, claiming it was not sure Kenyan beef met the required standards to be exported to Kampala, and has remained adamant in refusing to lift the ban.
KMC on average exports about 100 metric tonnes of meat products per month, mostly mutton, lamb, goat meat and corned beef to its principal export markets such as United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Egypt.
Until the livestock feeds began to bite, growth in the sector was strong. The total value of marketed livestock and related products in Kenya grew by 22 per cent, to Sh55.3bn in the year 2010 compared to Sh45.1 billion a year earlier.
Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter