How to expand livestock sale from Kiamaiko to Dubai

Every day at Kiamaiko slaughterhouse in Nairobi’s Eastlands hundreds of thousands of shillings change hands as eager buyers snap up either chunky pieces of mutton or live goats.

The live goats are sold for anywhere between Sh3,000 and Sh10,000 depending on size and demand. Thousands of kilometres away at the Dubai cattle market, a 15-kilo goat can fetch prices as high as Sh16,000. A larger goat of 35 kilos, can fetch you a cool Sh55,000. While such high prices are only experienced during high-demand Eid season, meat and live goats fetch higher prices in Dubai than in Kenya.

This explains why on a recent visit to my bank, I bumped into an honourable enterprising Kenyan woman who regularly exports meat to the United Arabs Emirates (UAE). She told me that for her the problem wasn’t a lucrative market, but rather, air cargo space. Despite the fact that she is able to pay for air transportation of mutton, the planes only allocates 15 per cent of their cargo space for such. There is therefore an urgent need for an innovative solution to this humongous challenge.

Unknown to many, Kenya exports about 6,000 goats in form of mutton to the UAE daily, against a daily potential export market of 25,000 goats. If our government in conjunction with Meat and Livestock Exporters Industry Council of Kenya focuses on getting a lasting solution, our youth can easily unleash our full potential.

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Unlike this lady entrepreneur and existing exporters, the vast majority of Kenyan livestock traders cannot compete on the global stage. Even if that goat at Kiamaiko or in the rangelands of Makueni was weighing a hefty 40 kilos, it would fetch zero in many lucrative and reliable foreign markets. That’s because of the stringent requirements that these markets impose on meat and live animal imports.

These requirements might appear overly harsh but livestock owners in Kenya in communities like the Maasai always know intimate details of individual animals even if they own hundreds of such. We just need to translate that traditional skill into a contemporary benefit. In this regard, those intimate growth details must be recorded and be inclusive of feeding, treatment and overall breeding of respective animals as required. 

Fattening and rearing

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At a larger level, and to standardise the quality of our meat and live animals before they are exported, large-scale slaughterhouses and quarantine services are critical. In fact, each of the 47 counties should establish at least one quarantine area dedicated to fattening and rearing livestock for export. The Export Processing Zone Authority has set the pace by developing a Sh2.1 billion livestock export quarantine centre in Kibusu ranch, Tana River County.

Livestock reared in this quarantine centre will meet the global livestock export standards. Consequently, millions of cattle reared in this particular quarantine centre will fetch billions on the global market.

It is cheaper for the Gulf States to import livestock from countries like Kenya because of our proximity compared to a country like Australia, a prominent livestock exporter. In 2019, Australia exported 1.3 million head of cattle, which was a lot more than Kenya.

Against this backdrop, Kenya must wage a ‘livestock war’ against Australia. It is a war that will be fought on our vast ranches and rangelands, not on a battlefield. This ‘livestock war’ must begin with a rallying call for us to export more livestock than Australia within the next five years. Leaders should talk about this in their much beloved political rallies. Corporates should echo such a message in their Annual General Meetings. Even religious bodies should rally their congregants accordingly.

Leading this charge should be our young people. As they post about that new attire or sizzling meal that they are about to have, they should mention #exportmorelivestockthanaustralia. Such grassroots fervor will pressurise investors and our county governments to establish those quarantine centres and modern slaughterhouses across the country and step up extension services to millions of livestock owners.

Millions of youth who are pastoralists and even small-scale livestock owners in this country should be systematically and consistently supported to reap optimal dividends from their livestock. If most of them can export their livestock to the global market within a few years, then Kenya will successfully produce livestock products that will fetch higher returns. This is not complicated stuff! We only have to think green and act green!

The writer is founder and chairperson, Green Africa Foundation. www.isaackalua.co.ke

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