Kenya: KMC Takeover By Military Gives Hope to the Farmers

The head of state after speaking at the Nairobi Metropolitan Services garage in industrial area when he flagged off 83 vehicles that were rehabilitated by the state agency.
21 September 2020

After decades of egregious loss making, mismanagement and outright haemorrhaging, the government has finally taken over direct control of Kenya Meat Commission (KMC), placing it under the Kenya Defence Forces, which offers new hope for the livestock/meat sector.

The Defence ministry is to fund KMC and invest in, modernise its decrepit plants and storage facilities and expand its domestic and international markets.

Following its collapse under debt in 1991, KMC was only revived in 2006 by the Kibaki administration in a bid to restore it to its late 1960s glory.

A growing body of expertise now counsels that it was wrong for the State to ignore such a strategic sector of the economy.

Sectors like livestock, farming and fishing should never be left entirely to market forces as mismanagement and malign interests take over, threatening food security and Kenyans' livelihoods.

The millions of suffering livestock keeping, fishing and farming communities understand what neglect, under-investment, political interference and mismanagement of vital sectors can do to food security, personal incomes and health of a country.

For decades, KMC operated a meat processing plant in Athi River, Machakos County, a storage facility on Landhies Road, Nairobi, and two facilities (meat processing and storage) in Mombasa from where exports were shipped through the port.

Devastating drought

In the 1960s and '70s, KMC was described as the oldest and most sophisticated meat processor in East Africa for not only its modern equipment and abattoirs but also clean trading and processing practices that attracted reliable domestic and export markets, especially in Europe and the Middle East.

But it was always tottering on the brink of ill health as early as 1967, when, despite its monopoly, it made a Sh7 million loss. It would recover under an American manager to make a Sh14.2 million profit in 1968 and Sh2 million in 1969 but return to loss making in 1970, when the market was opened to players such as Quality Meat Packers, Uplands Bacon Factory and Halal Meat Products Limited.

The devastating 1973 drought caused a massive drop in livestock supplies to KMC and, by 1991, following years of mismanagement and outright pillage, it closed for 15 years.

That opened a dark void that all kinds of adventurous, usurious and environment-polluting investors with inadequate capabilities, and whose activities not only decimated the livestock market but also sparked multiplier effects such as raising the cost of Kenyan meat to be the highest in East Africa attempted to fill. After the Sh400 million attempted revival in 2006, The EU banned Kenya's meat exports over health standards.

But the Achilles' heel for KMC has been political interference as shown by the investment and employment policies of the 1970s and '80s. In KDF, the State has a golden opportunity to resurrect KMC.

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