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KMC’s future at stake, head on chopping block

George Kebaso @Morarak

Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) faces an imminent shutdown with plans a foot to offer the country’s oldest public beef processor for privatisation. After decades of struggle that saw it shut down for a while before it was revived in 2006 by the government, it has emerged that KMC’s final leg is nigh.

This comes even as reports from the meat factory indicated that on Tuesday evening, a section of the facility caught fire, and the cause had not yet been established.

Yesterday, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Mwangi Kiunjuri said that perennial challenges facing the State institution have left the government at crossroads with two options of either to completely shut it down, or privatise it. “Why do we need to close down KMC? We feel that Kenyans need to know the reasons,” he said.

“As you are all aware, we have been having problems with KMC. We are contemplating either to privatise it, or revive it,” Kiunjuri told a gathering of donors from the European Union (EU) and agribusiness stakeholders in Nairobi yesterday.

He said that a number of challenges informed the current plans to close the facility based in Athi River, Machakos County. Years of financial mismanagement, shrinking supply of animals, obsolete equipment and poor quality of beef produced by KMC were some of the challenges the CS outlined.

In August 2006, after 10 years of silence in the facility, the government did test runs confirming that KMC was ready to competitively enter the local and international markets.

The government pumped in an estimated Sh750 million to get the engines rolling on top of an earlier Sh500 million injected to replace old equipment.

In March 2009, it again emerged that the State-run facility was on the verge of a total shutdown, just three years after it was officially re-opened by former President Mwai Kibaki in a colourful ceremony.  This threatened the livelihood of more than 10 million people from the pastoralist communities, who depended on the income from beef sales.

In August 2013, senior managers at KMC were in the spotlight after a new government audit revealed that the multi-billion-shilling facility had been seriously crippled through financial mismanagement.

During the same year, it was again on the verge of collapse after it emerged that it had not settled invoices worth Sh220 million from suppliers since October 2012.

As at March 9, when the probe was ordered by the former President, the meat processor had made losses in excess of Sh1.2 billion, inclusive of the Sh500 million injected to revive it.

Yesterday, Kiunjuri said his ministry has already floated investment opportunities for establishment of feedlots as it also emerged that the quality of local beef does not meet export standards.

A feedlot is a type of animal feeding operation (AFO) which is used in intensive animal farming for finishing livestock, notably beef cattle, but also swine, horses, sheep, turkeys, chickens or ducks, prior to slaughter.

“We have already advertised for investment in the establishment of feedlots in order to have more animals to export as local supply to our state slaughterhouse continues to shrink further,” the CS said.

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