With obvious concern about food security, all indications are that Ethiopia is affording its livestock sector priority in all aspects - from protecting live animals and regulating domestic trade, to increasing revenue earnings from meat exports. No evidence of the heightened prioritisation is more compelling than the proposed new Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development. As FORTUNE STAFF WRITER, LUCY KASSA reports, the new ministry will have to hit the ground running as one of its first tasks will be to address quality assurance issues in the export market and persuade Ethiopia’s biggest meat export destination to lift the recently imposed ban.
This past week may have been a week just like any other for exporters of other products. But it was not a pleasant week for meat exporters and the government after the unexpected ban of country’s meat exports by agriculture authorities of the United Arab Emirates, the largest importer of meat from Ethiopia taking 63 pc of the export revenue share. The ban caused some meat exporters in the country to shutdown their slaughter houses.
The meat sector accounts 33 pc of the share of agricultural in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 15 pc of the total export revenue obtained by the country. In the last fiscal year alone around 93.2 million dollar revenue was obtained from meat exports with a volume of 19.4 million tons of meat. Compared to the fiscal year 2013/2014, meat exports showed a 28.8pc increase in volume as well as 24pc increase in revenue. This increasing export revenue seems to drive the various initiatives that are now being taken by the government.
Government this year developed a 10 year strategic plan (2015-2025) that sets a target of increasing the export revenue to 3.8 billion dollar by 2025, along with the aspiration to increase local meat consumption to 2.6 million tons. This is not only one of the initiatives the government has taken.
Presdient Mulatu Teshome in his New Year’s statement identified these limitations of support and focus in the industry highlighting the need for increased attention to the sector saying “Diversification of products particularly in livestock, fishery and efficiency of irrigation needs more focus in the coming years,” he said and called for concerted action in the area.
Following his remarks, the meat sector seems to enjoy serious consideration in the second growth and transformation plan. It will be one of the sectors having a new Ministry of Livestock & Fisheries Development. The idea is to manage the meat resources of the country efficiently by establishing a separate entity to streamline, diversify and ensure optimal use of the resource. Ethiopia is known for having the highest livestock population in Africa. Unfortunately, the new ministry will start its duty in an uphill manner, as it needs to convince its biggest export destination to lift a ban recently imposed on meat exports from Ethiopia.
Bringing order to volatile livestock trading and ensuring equitable consumption was one serious move witnessed in the past year. The Ministry of Trade has introduced a receipt system in livestock markets to control illegal trading. The issue was highly resisted by livestock traders to the point of dropping out of the business. Irrespective of this, the directive has been put in place and strictly followed in Addis Abeba since September 13, 2015.
It is now being implemented in all five legal livestock markets in the city. These are located in Kera, in Kirkos district: Kara, in Yeka: Akaki Kera, in Akaki Kaliti, Shegole and Birchiko. The City Administration is now clearing informal livestock markets throughout the city and bringing them to the legal markets.
The aim of the new receipt system is to create a modern and efficient market structure that enables the supply of live animals to be competitive in quality and price, in domestic and export markets. It will also develop an efficient and cost effective live animal market structure supported by up-to-date information and yielding proper benefit to live animal breeders, traders, consumers and the country in general. Its introduction may be advantageous to breeders, butcher shops and legally registered livestock sellers by pushing illegal brokers out of the value chain.
Tekeia Gidey, 42, is a market centre coordinator at Kera livestock market. He was resented by illegal brokers who set cattle prices in an uncontrolled way, creating price instability in the market.
“The government is now able to collect one million Br per day from the receipt system. Before the implementation of the receipt system, there were 350 livestock merchants in the Kera market. But, with implementation of the receipt system, this number has been reduced to 101 legally registered livestock sellers who are issuing receipts and some of the illegal brokers are now forced to work legally”. Tekeia said.
Another man Tsgaye Hailu, general manager of Addis Ababa Butcher Shop Merchants Association said that with the receipt system, cattle are now slaughtered based on issuance of receipts at the abattoirs.
“Butcheries were getting their animal supply from secondary markets and did not get receipts to post their expenses previously. This resulted in excessive taxation. But after implementation of the receipt system, butcher shops are buying oxen and sheep from livestock sellers who issue receipts.”
But the introduction of the receipt is burdensome to customers who bear the ultimate cost. Abrhet Kenaw was of the customers buying meat at Doro Manekiya, Piazza when Fortune met her.
‘I used to buy meat all the time. The price of sheep meat has shown increment from the previous one. I used to buy sheep meat at 80 Br a kilo, but now I buy at 95 Br a kilo and the price increment has forced me to reduce the quantity of meat I buy,’ Abrhet said.
Butcher shops which are found in Doro Manekiya, Piazza are now selling oxen meat at the price of 220 to 240 Br a kilo to customers who used to eat inside the butchery houses. But, consumers who would like to buy meat for home consumption are buying at 140 Br a kilo. Sheep meat is also sold for 90 to 120 Br a kilo. The price increment depends on the quality difference of the meat.
“We used to buy oxen and sheep without using receipts from livestock. But, when the receipt issuance was implemented, it made our accounting system easier and it prevents disagreements that were likely to occur between our workers. Generally the receipt system is good for us and the government as well,” said General Manager of Beeminet Bar & Restaurant, Abinet Yitbarek.
This is in line with the strategy that set predictable local livestock trading value-chain, trading on open auction and reducing manipulation of farmers by brokers as well as increasing the meat animal supply. The strategy set in motion a number of implementation processes including enhancement of effective live stock oriented agriculture extension services; improvement of the policy and regulation environment across the value chain; integrated interventions on the value chain; improved loan access around the value chain actors and improved technology development in the animal live stock production system.
According to Mengesha Yayu, team leader of the strategy development, “the Strategy is going to increase the meat consumption by increasing the production of meat in the country and expanding commercial supply.”
Sources in the office of the Prime Minister explained that separation of the Ministry of Livestock & Fisheries Development will enable the country to use its livestock resources which are said to be insufficiently exploited.
But other than the challenges in fulfilling the demand for local meat consumption and within the target of increasing the export volume as well as revenue there is an issue of quality of the meat exported which caused the import ban imposed by the United Arab Emirates last week. The 10 year strategy which has taken the export meat quality issue as one of its concerns provides for improvement of infrastructure and efficiency of the slaughter houses that help meet the export standard so as to avoid similar bans by complying with export standards. In the improvement of the infrastructure it gives due consideration to killing and dressing procedures, cutting practices, maintaining consistent temperature with cold chain infrastructure, packing and labelling technology and meat quality control.
Despite these efforts the price of meat which is rising with the increase in the consumers is driving meat consumers like Tewodros Zeru to decrease the quantity of meat he consumed weekly from four times to three times. For him the strategies and efforts are not supported by a controlled plan and have no continuity.
A seller cutting meat portions for sale at his butcher shop.
Cattle at Kera livestock market.
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