Meat costs rise as virus bites key suppliers

The sound of knives being sharpened at the country’s many nyama choma joints is almost absent as Kenyans keep off entertainment spots following government directives on social distancing.

The average Kenyan’s consumption of livestock products is estimated at 16 kilogrammes of meat. But Covid-19 is now threatening the livestock industry, whose turnover hit Sh146 billion in 2018, an 8.3 per cent rise from the previous year, according to official data.

Due to the disruption in demand caused by the pandemic, meat prices at Nairobi’s Dagoretti slaughterhouse, one of the cheapest sources of meat supplies in the country alongside Kiamaiko also in the capital city, have started going up by Sh100.

A spot check by The Standard found that a kilo of goat meat was retailing at Sh370 up from Sh270, while a kilo of beef now costs Sh350 from Sh250.Neighbourhood butcheries sell a kilo of beef at an average of Sh400 and a kilo of goat meat at Sh550. Consumers who want large amounts of meat or prime cuts, and those in the food industry source their meat from abattoirs due to the pocket-friendly wholesale costs.

Now, with most barbeque grills lying idle, numerous dependents who made their daily wages from the spots along the country’s major highways and by-pass towns, such as Ruiru and Ruaka, like many parts of the country, have been rendered jobless.They include meat dealers, musicians, hawkers, vegetable sellers, water vendors and cleaners.

And for almost two weeks since the State instituted tough measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, including a dusk-to-dawn curfew, social distancing and stay-at-home orders, only a few bar owners are keeping nyama choma joints open for takeaway orders.Even the popular Kamakis along the Ruiru bypass now has only about two meat dealers open to cater to the few customers.

Mwaura, a meat dealer in the area, said they have scaled-down meat buying owing to reduced demand.“We are hanging on by a thread here,” he said.He sources his meat from Kiamaiko, and says supplies from pastoralists has gone down.The livestock bred for meat is largely procured from arid and semi-arid areas whose economies are set to be hit even harder by the continued ravaging of the coronavirus.

Mwaura says the abattoirs that normally source their goats from Kajiado and Narok have had to find alternatives from Laikipia and Nyahururu.Njenga from the Dagoretti abattoir said they barely slaughter 100 goats a day now compared to a previous average of 500.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that the number of livestock being slaughtered has been increasing in the last few years. Beef tops the list of meat most consumed in a year in Kenya.According to KNBS, the number of cattle slaughtered rose by 7.4 per cent from 2.6 million heads in 2017 to 2.8 million heads in 2018.

The goats and sheep delivered to slaughterhouses rose by 11.3 per cent to stand at over one million in 2018, while the number of pigs slaughtered was over 388,000 in 2018, an increase of 7.8 per cent from 360,000 in 2017.

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