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Kenya livestock sector earns big exporting live animals to Middle East

animals ready for export

Animals at the port. Kenya experiences an increase in the number of live animals exports annually which can rise from 255 to 375 tonnes to between 750 and 850 tonnes. Photo courtesy.

The country’s ever-growing livestock industry which is one of the largest and most developed in the Sub Sahara Africa is earning big from exporting live animals and other animal products to the Middle East.

According to data by the KALRO Beef Research Institute, the country’s livestock stock sector contributes approximately 10 per cent to the overall GDP and accounts for about 30 per cent of total agricultural products, which earn the country foreign exchange through the export of live animals, dairy products, hides and skins.

In transporting the live animals from Kenya to the Middle East, exporters use hired specialized vessels that resemble a ferry which includes a ramp that enables the exporter to roll the livestock into the vessel.

The animals are tied to the base of the ship which holds them as the ship sails. They are not transported by containers as this will suffocate them to death plus the exporter is required to keep an eye on them during the whole trip as they can get tired and die from the exhaustion.

To get access to these specialized ships, however, it will depend on the availability as they are in high demand. The exporter has to get in touch with the chartering companies that deal with ship brokerage, in order to find out the availability of the vessels.

“If the ship is in faraway voyage like Russia, it means that they will charge higher, also the bigger it is, the expensive it is but the smaller the vessel, the smaller the number one can load but the unit load will be higher. The bigger the ship, the larger the number one can load but the lower the load unit cost,” said Walid Timimi, a shipbroker based in Mombasa.

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For instance, to export 12,000 live animals the unit cost will Sh10,000 for each animal which will cost Sh120m. It can cost from $30,000(approx. Sh3m) to $60,000 (approx. Sh6m) a day to charter a vessel to transport live animals to the Middle East which can take from one to two weeks.

 Also, the exporter is required to incorporate the animals’ foods and health requirements in the charges plus they need to work with the health authorities to ensure that they have the animals vaccines needed to prevent illness or death while on the ship.

Every year Kenyan shipping companies make 50 to 70 per cent rise in live animals exports from the normal cargo holdings, to the Middle East during Eid ul-Fitr celebrations which takes place annualy.

“We ship dates, skin and hides as well as live animals especially cows, goats and sheep to the Middle East region to areas which include U.A.E, Kuwait, Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia. During Ramadhan and just before Eid ul-Fitri, we experience an increase in the number of exports annually which can rise from 255 to 375 tonnes to between 750 and 850 tonnes,” said Stephen Kanyingi, marketing agent at Emirates Shipping East Africa Limited based in Mombasa.

The Muslim celebration marks a breaking of the Ramadhan fast and families get together to eat plus they hold large feasts in mosques or community centres. During this period, goats and lambs are in high demand because they are they feature on the main course for Muslims plus just before the celebrations they sacrifice livestock as part of the celebration.


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