Taita Taveta herders set to reap big after beef exports to Oman start

First cattle shipment to Oman left on Monday, included 2,550 bulls of Sahiwal and Boran breeds

In Summary
  • The deal will cushion livestock keepers from losses caused by lack of a stable beef market
  • Each live animal of 400kg will fetch Sh90,000
Shahab Bulushi from the Omani government and Taita Taveta County Executive for Livestock Erick Kyongo during the loading of cattle at the Maungu loading site. The cattle will be exported to Oman
Shahab Bulushi from the Omani government and Taita Taveta County Executive for Livestock Erick Kyongo during the loading of cattle at the Maungu loading site. The cattle will be exported to Oman

Hundreds of livestock farmers in Taita Taveta county are keen on tapping into livestock exports to Oman and other Middle Eastern countries.

Considered a disease-free zone, the region is an attractive source of livestock because of its quality cattle and the relatively lower cost of production. This is due to an expansive livestock-rearing zone, comprising 30 community ranches covering more than 1.2 million acres.

In a deal with the herders, Al Bashayer Meat Company, an Omani-based firm, will import live animals. Overseeing the first shipment on Monday, Shahab Bulushi from the Omani government expressed satisfaction with the quality of cattle.

“We got one of the best consignments from this region. All the animals meet the World Health Organization standardisation requirements and are ready for export,” he said.

The first consignment consists of 2,550 bulls of the Sahiwal and Boran breeds.

Bulushi said the deal is a partnership between Al Bashayer and a Qatar-based meat company, which aim to buy about 200,000 head of cattle and 1.2 million goats and sheep from Kenya.

The export deal aims to establish a long-term business partnership between Kenya, Oman and Qatar, in which hundreds of livestock keepers will reap big.

He said the company settled on Taita Taveta due to the region’s proximity to the Port of Mombasa. Transportation is also affordable due to the proximity of the Mombasa-Nairobi highway, the standard gauge railway and the metre-gauge railway that cuts across the county.

“The ultimate goal of having our operations here is to make Taita Taveta the gateway linking the beef market in Middle East countries and Kenya.” 

The county also contains the 15,000-acre Bachuma Livestock Export Holding Ground and Quarantine which will play a central role in Kenya’s exploration of the beef export market.

Herder Hassan Mohammed praised the deal, saying it will cushion livestock keepers from losses caused by lack of a stable beef market.

He challenged farmers to capitalise on fodder production since the demand will rise as a result of increased production.

“Sometimes we buy fodder from as far as Nakuru. These are opportunities that we encourage people to embrace including smallholder farmers. They must benefit from the deal,” he said.

He urged the county government to deploy more extension officers to the herding community to maintain the required animal standards.

Mohammed also asked the county to establish a local livestock open-air market, enabling small-scale farmers to buy and sell their animals to exporters at a good price.

Herder Abdi Noor described the deal as a game changer that will enable them to earn more, alleviating poverty.

The export deal, Noor said, will make the county a hub for beef farming in Kenya. The exporting company has capped the minimum live weight requirement of the cattle at 400kg. Each live animal will fetch Sh90,000.

Livestock executive Erick Kyongo said the county is also banking on the export business to tap into commercial fodder production.

The department is empowering residents to capitalise on the increasing demand of fodder, especially during dry seasons.

“The agriculture and livestock department aims to capitalise on rangelands to grow fodder and help herders reduce livestock deaths caused by drought,” Kyongo said.

To meet the current demand, Kyongo said, the county needs to produce at least 1 million bales of pasture annually.

“The vast rangelands provide an ideal space for hay production. We are working closely with Taita Taveta Wildlife Conservancy Association to ensure we maximise on the potential,” he said.

Further, he said, the county is currently partnering with SNV, a Netherlands-based organisation, to produce pasture in more than 200 acres at Kasighau, Mgeno and Lualenyi ranches.

“We have also partnered with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to support farmers with pasture seeds. We have successfully distributed more than 14 tonnes so far,” he added.

The CEC said the department is also implementing the livestock feed strategy, a 10-year plan to increase livestock production in Taita Taveta.

“The strategy is key in addressing the country’s livestock feed deficit that is 60 per cent,” Kyongo said.

Hundreds of herders and small-scale livestock keepers in the region also are eyeing the Indonesian beef market.

Kenya is expected to start exporting at least 50,000 head of cattle annually to the Asian country.

The much-awaited export deal will help livestock keepers reap from the livestock value chain in line with the Kenya Kwanza Bottom-up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) and help grow the economy.

The beef, sheep and goat value chain sector currently contributes at least 12 per cent of the country’s GDP and 45 per cent of the agriculture GDP.

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