Dar es Salaam — Despite Tanzania being among African countries that have large numbers of livestock, it is yet to tap the potential.
Tanzania is the third country in Africa in having a large number of cattle after Ethiopia and Sudan.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Tanzania had 25.8 million cattle by early October 2015. The problem is that regions which have larger numbers of livestock in the country have no many large meat processing plants.
As a result, herders do not benefit.
Five leading regions with their cattle numbers in brackets are Tabora (2.74 million), Manyara (2.16 million), Mwanza (2.08 million), Mara (1.88 million) and Shinyanga (1.88 million).
Despite being rich in cattle, Tanzania is yet to meet its meat demand of 450,000 tonnes as its production is 350,000 tonnes annually.
NBS indicates that in December 2015, Tanzania had only four meat plants -- three of them located in Arusha.
It named them as Arusha Meat, Happy Sausage Ltd and Kiliago Livestock Products Ltd, all based in Arusha.
Chobo Investment Company is based in Nyamagana, Mwanza.
Statistics indicate that Tanzania has 38 tanneries -- eight of them located in Dar es Salaam. Seven others are in Kilimanjaro.
Manyara and Mara regions have four tanneries each while Morogoro and Ruvuma each had three.
Rukwa and Kagera regions have two each while Iringa, Kigoma, Mwanza and Coast regions have one tannery each.
Only 40 per cent of hides produced in the country is processed.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, 2.69 million hides were processed in 2015/16, far below the target.
Investment in milk processing is still low.
The Tanzania Dairy Board says only 43 million litres of milk are produced annually, down from the demand of 2.11 billion litres.
The annual demand is projected to reach 2.99 billion litres in the next three years.
In Kenya, the annual milk demand is 4.9 billion litres while production is 111 million litres.
Kenya is estimated to have 15 million cattle.
According to NBS, Tanzania has 43 dairy processing plants. Half of them are in Arusha, Kilimanjaro and Mara regions.
Arusha has eight plants, followed by Kilimanjaro and Mara with seven each.
Among the plants, Mara Milk Ltd was reported by Mwananchi newspaper last December to have been closed down due a debt burden. President John Magufuli's government has declared that Tanzania will be industrialised by 2020.
This is an opportunity for businesses to invest in livestock industry to meet Tanzania's milk and meat needs and have surplus for exports to vast regional markets.
By so doing, herders will enjoy benefits of their livestock and the government will earn revenue.
Jobs will be created, poverty alleviated, forex generated, the shilling strengthened and the national economy expanded.
Currently, livestock keepers are unsure of markets and therefore live in poverty.
Mr James Tabu, of Shaurimoyo Village in Tabora Region, says despite producing only 20 litres of milk daily, the market is unreliable.
"Since there is no dairy processing plant around, I am forced to move around in the streets in search of customers. I sell a litre of milk at Sh1, 000. Since there are no reliable customers, the milk sometimes goes bad," says Mr Tabu, who has 20 head of cattle.
While in Tabora one litre of milk is sold at Sh1,000, in Dar es Salaam the price is Sh2,000.
But it is uneconomical for Mr Tabu to travel that far with only 20 litres of milk.
Livestock stakeholders say the subsector is not developed.
Prof Damian Gabagambi, of Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), says Tanzanian herders do not benefit from a large number of traditionally-kept livestock.
"Someone feels proud of owning a large herd of cattle without knowing how to benefit from livestock. Cattle are normally sold when they are either sick or too old and their meat is not good."
He calls on the government to devise a plan of improving animal husbandry. "Cattle should not move long distances in search of pastures, but should be fed well where they are. The government should use SUA experts to develop the livestock sector," he said.
Livestock keeper Dunstan Mrutu supports that strategies should be drawn up to revolutionise animal husbandry.
Mr Mrutu, formerly president of the Tanzania Business Council, says markets are livestock products are largely abroad.
However, he is concerned about Tanzania's product quality to compete internationally.
"Livestock have a great opportunity for Tanzania's industrialisation. But that is possible if revolutionise animal husbandry. We need to produce quality animals, feed them well and destock. There should be some ranches."
The inadequacy of dairy processing plants is a result of mismanagement of parastatals, their collapse and subsequent privatisation.
According to the Tanzania Meat Board, the history of meat processing started before independence when Tanganyika Packers Limited (TPL) operated.
It was nationalised in 1974 before it ceased operating later.
The Livestock Development Authority (Lida) was established in 1970 to regulate the industry.
During those days Tanganyika Livestock Marketing Company (TLMC), the National Ranching Company (Narco), Tanzania Dairy Farming Company, Tanzania Dairy Limited (TDL), National Poultry Company (Napoco), Tanzania Feeds Company (Tafco), Tanzania Hides and Skins Ltd (THS) and Tanganyika Packaging Limited (TPL) were operating.
However, Lida later was disbanded. TPL kept working until 1993 when it was closed down.
Due to such challenges, meat processing became informal.
In 2001 the government engaged the private sector to invest in the industry.
In meetings held on April 2 and 4, 2001, under the chairmanship of President Benjamin Mkapa, it was discovered that main challenges in meat production were poor processing infrastructure, poor services and packaging of livestock products.
However, the livestock industry has not improved substantially.
Livestock permanent secretary Mary Mashingo says it is good to see pastoralists own large herds of livestock as the government has been providing sufficient services.
On the shortage of plants, Dr Mashingo explains that the government has been involving livestock stakeholders to exploit the potential.
"We are readjusting to involve the private sector to build plants. So far we have 117 plants -- 84 of them for milk processing, 24 for meat and nine tanneries."
According to her, Tanzania produced 900,000 tonnes of meat from cattle, pigs, goats, sheep and poultry in 2015/16.
Of the amount 350,000 tonnes came from cattle.
The meat was either consumed locally or exported to Vietnam, Hong Kong, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
"Tanzania earned Sh934 billion from selling 1.3 million cattle and 1 million goats. Of the amount Sh34 billion was realised from exports."
However, Dr Mashingo decried the tendency of some herders of simply keeping large numbers of livestock without selling some of them.
"We provide education to pastoralists and they started feeding their animal