- Tanzania, a country with a total area of 947,300 km², is home to Africa’s second-largest cattle herd.
- Meat exports constitute about 7.1 percent of the East African country’s GDP.
- With eyes on higher revenues, Tanzania aims to produce 10,000 tonnes of meat annually by 2025.
With a big herd and stakes high in the international food markets, Tanzania has set her eyes on ambitious plan of shipping 10,000 tonnes of meat exports annually by 2025. Whereas Tanzania is home to Africa’s second-largest cattle herd, the country has been punching below its weight.
Currently, Tanzania is not one of the top meat and milk producers in the continent. The country’s situation syncs with FAO’s observation that there is no correlation between the size of cattle herds a country owns to its beef exports.
Relation between cattle herds and meat exports
In terms of the size of livestock in Africa, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) places Tanzania only second to Ethiopia. FAO puts Tanzania’s agriculture, livestock and fisheries 2021 census that counted the country’s heads of cattle to be 33.9 million
One would expect that, the larger the number of heads of cattle, the larger the meat output, but that is not the case. There is no correlation between the size of cattle herds to beef exports, says FAO.
According to FAO, the top 10 beef producers in Africa are: South Africa (15.76 percent), Tanzania (7.31 percent), Kenya (7.05 percent), Chad (6.97 percent), Ethiopia (5.97 percent), Sudan (5.92 percent), Egypt (5.82 percent), Nigeria (5.03 percent, Morocco (4.32 percent), and South Sudan (3.53 percent).
In a continent of 54 countries, just these 10 countries account for 67.68 percent of Africa’s beef. Not only do the large herds not equal meat production, but most of these countries still import meat to meet domestic demand yet at the same time they export significant volume of meat.
Take for instance the case of Tanzania, despite its large number of beef cattle, meat exports contribute a mere 7.1 percent to her GDP. The country is however a huge importer of beef to help meet domestic demand.
Meat exporters are also meat importers
So why is this? Why does the country own so many herds of cattle yet its meat production level still lags behind capacity? And how is it able to export meat if its production does not meet its own demand?
Tanzania is not alone in this dilemma; “Ethiopia, which has the largest cattle herds in Africa (more than double that of Tanzania) is the fifth biggest beef producer in Africa,” FAO reports.
“We also find that meat exporters are also meat importers. South Africa, the largest meat exporter in Africa, is a case in point. It is a net importer of mutton and lamb, but a net exporter of live sheep, lamb and mutton. It is a net exporter of beef, but also imports relatively large volumes of beef,” reveals an NTU 2022 report.
“One reason why South Africa’s red meat industry exports some of its production is because export markets offer price premiums over the domestic market.”
There you have it, price determines where a country’s meat will go, to the local buyer or the premium market abroad, the latter always wins. Ironically, to fill in the meat gap, these countries again resort to importing, but, even more unfortunate, they import less quality meat.
African countries export their high-quality meat
In short, most African countries export their high-quality meat (and other products) only to import the same products just of lower quality; the dilemma of the poor man.
On the other hand, when it comes to the question of production capacity, a 2022 report titled; Factors that influence beef meat production in Tanzania, the researchers attest to a long list of challenges that affect its production capacity ranging from limited access to land for grazing and/or production of feed to high prevalence of animal diseases.
From these basic constraints, the list goes on to cover other key factors including poor access to farm credits, inadequate infrastructure, weak marketing systems and farmers’ organisations, inadequate technical support services, and, the low genetic potential of its local beef cattle breeds.
Read also: Demand overwhelming Kenya’s meat supply
Tanzania meat exports up 110 percent 2022/23
Despite these production limiting factors, the Tanzania Meat Board (TMB) reports that the country increased its meat sales significantly over the last year. In the FY 2022/23, Tanzania produced a little in excess of 12,240 tonnes valued at $51.895 million.
In his April parliamentary brief, Tanzania’s Livestock and Fisheries Minister Abdallah Ulega, explained that the country had increased her meat exports by over 5,500 tonnes of meat earning it an additional $15.6 million in export value.
Now, compared to the same period the previous year, Tanzania’s meat export increased by 43.1 percent. With this positive trend, it is no wonder that the government of Tanzania has set its eyes on the potential of exporting 10,000 tonnes of meat annually by 2025.
Which begs the question: what is causing this drastic increase in meat production and exports? On face value, the increase seems steep, but when considered, in comparison to pre-pandemic period, the uptick is rather gentle. The big difference in sales and revenue is first of all due to the reopening of markets post Covid-19 pandemic.
With the pandemic in mind, the increased revenue is not necessarily due to higher output but rather, due to the rising sales as markets come back to live.
As of November 2022, Tanzania broke out of the pandemic slowdown exporting over 1,420 tonnes. Compared to the 631,760 tonnes that were exported the previous month, Tanzania’s meat export was up by 125 percent and the upward trend has continued since.
From beef to poultry, Tanzania is big exporter
Here is the trend for the last four months according to the TMB: December 1,496.15 tonnes, January 1,399.80 tonnes, February 1,596.93 tonnes March 1,581 tonnes.
As of April this year, Tanzania had exported a total of 12,240 tonnes. The export includes 457.59 tonnes of beef, 8,689.80 tonnes of goat meat, 2,969.20 tonnes of sheep, 2.10 tonnes of chicken meat, 2.40 tonnes of pork and another 122.70 tonnes was accounted for by other types of meat.
Not in order of quantity purchased, Tanzania’s meat exports were predominantly to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, Jordan, Bahrain, Kenya, and Comoro, the minister told parliament.
Strategy to increase Tanzania meat exports
Other than the post-pandemic market resurgence, Tanzania has also put efforts in improving and increasing the number of abattoirs in the country.
“We are scaling up efforts to secure the new meat markets and mobilise the youth in commercial livestock keeping and assure meat factories availability of quality raw materials,” the minister explained.
In this regard, Tanzania has started a modern livestock-keeping scholarship program targeting an initial 240 youths.
“We are also improving the business investment climate in order to attract new investors in the meat production chain,” he said.
Seconding the minister, the Director of Production and Marketing in the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, Mr Steven Michael announced plans to engage financial institutions in the provision of low-interest loans to youth as well as a land leasing programme.
Commendably, according to the Tanzania Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development as of May 2022, the total number of cattle in the country stood at 35.3 million, there were 25.6 million goats 8.8 million sheep and 92.8 million chicken.