Kenya's elusive quest to export beef to the lucrative European Union (EU) market has received a huge boost after a new livestock vaccine, which researchers say will be able to control foot and mouth disease, was unveiled.
On Wednesday, the Kenya Veterinary Vaccines Production Institute (Kevevapi) said the first batch of the oil-based foot and mouth vaccine is ready for commercial rollout.
Livestock Principal Secretary Andrew Tuimur said the new vaccine will boost farmers' incomes by reducing the effects of the disease.
"I am confident that the oil-based foot and mouth vaccine will improve livestock production and access to national, regional and international markets," said Mr Tuimur at a training workshop on the new vaccine at the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation.
Kenyan beef and animals have always been restricted entry into the EU market because of the disease that is endemic in the country.
Official figures estimate livestock diseases rob the agriculture sector of Sh24 billion in economic losses annually, attributed to reduced market access, decreased productivity and deaths.
BOOST TO LIVESTOCK KEEPERS
"Most livestock diseases can be prevented by vaccination. Thus preventive vaccination has high economic returns for serious livestock diseases such as foot and mouth as they lower production losses and allow livestock to meet sanitary requirements as demanded by our trading partners," said Mr Tuimur.
Acting chief executive officer, Dr Jane Wachira, said the vaccine will be a huge boost to Kenya's livestock markets, eventually emboldening efforts to promote beef and animal products from the country to enter into the highly regulated European Union market.
Dr Wachira praised the development of the vaccine, which she noted, is an improvement on the current water-based vaccine, a milestone, citing its "long immunity period and a longer shelf life".
"It is cost effective as it confers long immunity of six to 12 months and the frequency of vaccination is once or twice per year," said Dr Wachira.
The vaccine costs Sh200 a dose.