Officials say it is beyond their capacity
Lack of traceability has prevented abattoirs involved in the export of meat from shipping to European and Chinese markets.
Businesses willing to export meat to Europe and China must pass through stringent quality-check procedures, including traceability, including the requirements for animal identification information, supply of food chain information, supplier declarations and veterinary certificates, among others.
“Though our factory has the capacity to satisfy the international market, doing so has never been easy because the livestock we slaughter are not up to standards,” said Saleamlak Abinew (PhD), director of Bishoftu Abattoir, which has exported 125.8 tons of beef in the last six months.
The beef market saw over a dozen of slaughterhouses join in the last decade, even though they are still utilizing only a third of their installed capacity, particularly due to insufficient supply of cattle. It is a problem that has prevented the country benefit from the huge cattle population it has.
Despite being home to over 70 million cattle, Ethiopia exported 10,000 tons of processed meat and 800 tons of feed over the past six months, generating USD 50 million, accounting for less than three percent of the export proceeds generated during the same period.
Exporters say the lack of appetite for beef produced in Ethiopia is the reason for the lower export performances. “Since there is no standard governing quality of beef produced here, we have limited markets, exporting only to the Middle East,” said Saleamlak.
“This has forced us exporters to cut price just to get the forex, though the central bank prohibits exporting beef for a price lower than USD 5,800 per ton,” he added.
It is a sentiment shared by a lobby group representing industry players.
“The Ministry of Agriculture must introduce standards to boost the quality of livestock that we buy from suppliers and eventually increase meat exports,” said Abebaw Mekonnen, office manager of the Ethiopian Meat Producers and Exporters Association.
Officials at the Ministry of Agriculture said they do not have the financial capacity to undertake a study and introduce a standard that could make beef products of Ethiopia traceable.
“That is why we are focusing on improving the health of animals, which is the best way to a quality beef,” said Yohannes Girma (DVM), advisor to the State Minister of Agriculture.
Diversification is also another issue that prevents businesses from capitalizing on the international market.
“Over 90 percent of beef exported to Ethiopia constitutes goats’ meat, while the share of cattle is insignificant,” added Yohannes.