The military will now run the cash-strapped Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) in a move aimed at ensuring the survival of the ailing parastatal.
This after Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya directed Livestock Principal Secretary Harry Kimtai to effect transfer to the Ministry of Defence on the orders of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“Following the transfer of ministerial responsibility of the Kenya Meat Commission to the Ministry of Defence by the president, you are directed to facilitate a seamless transfer of Kenya Meat Commission to the Ministry of Defence,” the CS said in a memo dated September 7 and copied to KMC managing commissioner James ole Seriani.
Munya directed the State officers to ensure they coordinate the entire exercise with the National Treasury and transfer the associated budgets at the next scheduled supplementary budget.
People with knowledge of the matter said the transfer was aimed at enhancing the agency’s operations to better serve beef farmers. It also shows that the president is increasingly willing to put his trust in military men to manage and turn around troublesome sectors of the economy.
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The government-owned meat processor is operating below capacity as it grapples with an unreliable supply of raw materials and ageing plant machinery.
Its debts stand at Sh1.1 billion, which include livestock farmers’ dues of Sh254.4 million and outstanding payroll deductions totalling Sh144 million as per 2019.
Apart from a Sh300 million government debt, the parastatal’s failure to pay livestock farmers has disrupted its supply chain resulting in its Athi River abattoir operating below capacity.
The plant slaughters 200 cattle every week despite having the capacity to process the same number of animals in one day.
The public agency has the capacity to supply meat to all schools and colleges in the country as well as major State corporations. It also supplies meat to major supermarket chains.
The firm has grappled with poor performance since the 1960s because of political interference, obsolete machinery, and loss of the European Union market due to animal diseases.
The parastatal has fixed operating costs of Sh20 million every month, including Sh10 million for salaries and Sh4 million for electricity.
The main functions of KMC include procurement of livestock, processing and packaging of meat and meat products, marketing of the products, and research and development of new products.
KMC was formed in 1950 through an Act of Parliament with the objective of providing a ready market for livestock farmers and providing high quality meat and meat products to consumers.
It is by far the oldest and most experienced meat processor in Kenya and the larger East African region. It was re-opened on June 26, 2006 after 15 years of closure with the objective of promoting the meat industry domestically and for export.
It was expected that with its huge capacity, it would complement government efforts in economic recovery with its fully integrated meat processor whose strength lies in the unrivalled efficiency of its meat processing plants along with its ability to process high volumes of quality meat in line with consumer tastes and preferences.
The agency has been facing challenges in securing its properties, including land that has been invaded or allocated to private developers. It has parcels of land in Athi River, Riverside Drive, and Kitisuru in Nairobi, Kitengela, Mombasa, Kwale, Mavoko/Mlolongo and Nanyuki, among other areas.