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Nairobi Relooks its Livestock Strategy

Established in 1950, the Kenya Meat Commission is a public institution that was intended to provide a ready market for local livestock producers and provide high quality meat and meat products to consumers. It also has the crucial functions of protecting domestic markets and expanding exports. There are about 14.3 million beef cattle in Kenya, contributing about US$1.6 billion to the Kenyan economy. Most of this cattle is found in arid and semi-arid lands. This constitutes 89% of Kenya’s land area and is home to 36% of the population. This is the main constituency that looks to the Commission for service. The Kenyan government has now announced that the Commission is being transferred from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives to the Ministry of Defence. This move has come as a surprise to many, though it probably shouldn’t have. The Commission has struggled for decades. The current government claims that military-run outfits are generally more efficient. And that procurement processes under the military are more transparent, less constrained and consequently faster. The Commission was set up with some advantages. It had a legal monopoly that prevented any slaughterhouse from setting up within a radius of 20kms its processing plants. This provision guaranteed it a ready market and eliminated competition. It also had exclusive rights to sell meat to government institutions including schools, colleges, hospitals and the military. This provision guaranteed a captive market in the form of large public institutions. But this later haunted the Commission when the very institutions meant to prop it up became major defaulters, denting its cash flow. As of 2017, domestic debtors owed it US$3.3million.