Why Kenya is losing global meat market share

Industry blames lack of support from national and devolved governments for opening doors to competitors

Kenya’s animal agriculture is a constantly evolving sub-sector with some regions hosting modern operations while others have just enough animals to supply their own family needs. The sub-sector is increasingly emerging as a crucial cog that will make Kenya’s economy more competitive and well rated not only in East Africa but also on the continent.

However, even with endowed huge potential, the industry is not sitting pretty. The high potential, especially, for exports of products to high value markets, mainly Europe remains fully unexploited due to inadequate capacity in standardisation and quality control. Returns to farmers are low owing to what value chain players say are inability to brand products to meet conditions of high value markets such as European Union (EU) and America. EU market regulations requires imported beef to have traceable sources and history of each animal.

Equally, value chain players blame the situation – the inability to adequately seize a significant share of the markets – to delay by the government to put in place policy to guide the trade in addition to allocating adequate resources annually to support growth of the sub-sector.

Kenya Livestock Producers Association (KLPA) Chief Executive Officer, Patrick Kimani says the industry lack support from both the national and county governments thus creating a leeway to traders from the region to exploit the untapped export potential.

Livestock comprises dairy cattle, goats, camels and beef cattle, small ruminants, non-ruminants, poultry and emerging livestock such as quail and rabbits. The country’s main export markets for meat products include United Arab Emirates, Tanzania and Uganda, while the main markets for hides and skins are Germany, UK, Netherlands and Italy. The market for livestock supplies is also expanding locally and regionally.

Nearly all cattle and goats bought at Moyale and Mandera originate from Borana and Somali regions of Ethiopia. Small numbers of cattle from South Sudan and south-western part of Ethiopia are also routed to Eldoret and Nairobi through Lokichogio and Lodwar. A significant portion in the Garissa market comes from Somalia. Similarly, livestock from Tanzania is moved through Kuria and Migori and to markets in Nairobi.

Kenya, Kimani says is a high red meat market in the region with about 65 per cent of the meat produced in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) under pastoral production system.

According to 2009 census, Kenya has about 17.3 million cattle (14 million indigenous and 3.3 million exotic), 27 million goats, 17 million sheep, 2.9 million camels, 335,000 pigs and 32 million birds. But the figure could have changed since.

Red meat comprising beef, mutton, goat and camel meat, accounts for more than 80 per cent of all the meat consumed locally, The remaining 20 per cent is white meat which includes poultry and pig meat supplied by poultry and pork production chains – Kenchic and Farmer’s Choice.

According to Kimani, the growth of the sector is also undermined by the status of local slaughterhouses and factories which are not appealing and thus not able to produce quality products such as sausages, beacons, canned meat, finished leather and finished leather products.

Bulk export of livestock has also denied the country and farmers revenue as they are low-priced in the high value markets such as European Union. 

Subsidiaries of multinational companies in Kenya equally prefer importing livestock products, like chicken, sausage, beacons and canned meat from mother countries as local products are said to be of low standards. Julius Kiptarus, the director of Livestock Production, says that some of the regional markets such as Egypt, Djibouti and Ethiopia have sound systems for meat storage and thus are able to serve the export market mainly Middle East and other high value markets.

Equally the countries have high demand of livestock products.   Kenya Camel Association (KCA) National Coordinator Abey Khalif told People Daily recently that between 1,000 and 1,200 camels are slaughtered every day in Egypt. Kenya on the other hand consumes between 19 and 23 camels daily. Deputy Director of Veterinary Services Nicholas Ayore says Djibouti also has a well regulated market and enjoys modern markets. “Djibouti imports live animals from other countries, value add the meat and thus able to serve the markets in Africa and Middle East. Further, Djibouti serves as an exit route of livestock largely to the Arab world,” said Dr Ayore.

It is estimated that Kenya has more than 2,000 slaughterhouses managed by the national government, counties and private sector. The government-owned slaughter house – Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) – is in currently in dire straits and its two stations Athi River and Mombasa are under renovation before. Established in the early 1950s to provide a ready market for livestock farmers and high quality products to consumers, KMC requires a facelift through investment in new machinery, diversification and introduction of buffer stock to ensure continuous supply throughout the year. Agriculture Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Andrew Tuimur  said the government contemplates selling the facility to strategic investor.

“A good number of countries such as Turkey, China and Saudi Arabia are interested in acquiring a stake in KMC. We have advised the potential investors to develop a concept note to enable us know their intention,” he said on phone. KMC which has a capacity to slaughter 1,200 cattle heads per day Tuimur said is grappling with obsolete technology and credibility issues.

The institution that for long has been struggling with numerous strikes owing to low cash flow has as at the end of 2017/18 financial year pending bills to the tune of Sh85 billion.  

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