THE National Assembly was last week told that Tanzania has exported more than 880 tonnes of meat worth 28.8bn/- this fiscal year and that business is booming.
The country has exported 126.2 tonnes of beef; 88.4 tonnes of mutton and 667 tonnes of goat meat. The Minister for Livestock Development and Fisheries, Dr David Mathayo David, also told the august House that seven new meat processing plants and 67 dairy product factories will be built.
This is wonderful news. Tanzania, with an 18.8 million strong herd of cattle, is in fact the third richest nation in Africa, in this aspect after Ethiopia and Sudan. The 28.8bn/- earned from meat exports a whole year is therefore too little for a country with such a huge potential.
Perhaps the main pitfall in this business is the stark reality that the nation exports live cattle as well, instead of the more lucrative products alone. The main importers of live cattle (and products) are Comoro, Burundi, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
Live cattle and products are also shipped to neighbouring countries with Kenya in the lead. The other canker is that this nation has virtually failed to improve the genetic quality of its herd of cattle.
The short horn Zebu and Ankole remain dominant in the herd. These produce too little meat and insignificant amounts of milk and other products. When addressing a rally at Loliondo in October 2010, President Jakaya Kikwete told livestock keepers, some of whom were also farmers to grow high quality pasture for their cattle. He also said that a new livestock policy calls for rearing of better quality hybrid cattle.
The policy encourages cattle keepers to grow lawn that would save their animals from starvation when droughts or floods hit. He called for smaller but healthier herds.
The president who was on a campaign trail, also said that livestock research centres would be enabled to produce higher-value hybrid bulls that would be distributed to cattle keepers in a quest to produce hybrid cattle that would produce more meat and more milk. Well, not much has been done since then.
The nation therefore has a huge task in its hands. More efforts should be made to ensure that exports of live cattle taper off and that more cattle products are exported.