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Beef prices soar on post-drought shortage

The severe 2020 – 2023 East African drought killed over 9.5 million livestock in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia by March of last year. This has caused a 48 per cent spike in the price of beef products since 2019, when a kilogram of beef retailed for Sh422. 

The number of livestock fit for slaughter for local and export markets has more than halved as livestock keepers are yet to recover their herd sizes.

According to the KNBS March 2024 data, the average retail price for a kilogram of beef is Sh625. This is a 16.6 per cent rise from the same time last year. The last time a kilogram of beef sold for below Sh500 in Kenya was two years ago in March 2022, selling at Sh499. 97.

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Mcharo Mbogho– a goat trader and breeder– has borne witness to the devastation wrought by the drought firsthand. “I had 150 pregnant sheep, 80 of whom I watched die even after buying fodder because they were too weak to digest the feed. We had to curl our livestock at throwaway prices to about 10 per cent of our capacity. From a herd of 200 beef cattle, I now have 20, and my galla goats are down from 600 to 100. It was either that or watch them all die,” recounted the owner of Kilengeta Farm in Taita Taveta County.

Despite this, he is one of the lucky ones. “Most of my neighbors lost everything,” he said.

According to USAID’s Famine Early Warning System, the Kenyan livestock market is now a seller’s market with livestock sale values up between 10 to over 100 per cent than the five-year average.

Sustained rains being experienced across Kenya since late last year have led to good pasture and forage conditions which support excellent body conditions for cattle, goats, and sheep, along with increased livestock productivity. 

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It will however take a couple of more years for livestock keepers to restore their livestock to pre-drought numbers.  

Global research organisation CGIAR warns that after a period of prolonged drought, it takes small ruminants eighteen months to 3 years to reconstitute losses of 30-40 per cent. Cattle numbers will need 10 to 12 years to recover after a similar level of loss.

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