Tasked with earning one billion dollars from meat exports by the end of the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP),
the Ethiopian Meat and Dairy Technology Institute (MEDTI) is setting its sights on China.
The institute which helps support meat producers under the Ministry of Agriculture has been addressing concerns about delays in the slaughtering process and has been looking for new export destinations for meat, which lags behind livestock in exports.
“Meat exports have met half of their target goals, livestock has done somewhat better which means that we have reached 80pct of our goal in general,” said Gedey Gebre Medhin, director of the institute, who argues that slaughter delays are the major cause of the problem.
There are ten new slaughter houses being constructed in Ethiopia through both local and foreign investors. At least two new slaughter houses are in the finishing stages.
However problems with funding and technology and acquiring land leases are slowing down slaughters. Still the director remains hopeful because their experts are collaborating with investors at the new sites to get their operations up and running as smoothly as possible. Meat demand is increasing globally and Ethiopia is being recognized by more countries as a potential import source for meat.
“To meet the demand we have to work jointly with industries,” Gedey said, “we also have to learn from the experience of other countries.”
The institute is also working with existing slaughterhouses to give them the ability to increase their business. In addition to technical support the government has made it easier for investors to import machines and refrigerator trucks, according to the director.
They hope all this will allow them to be ready for the new markets they are in the process of scouting. “In the past budget year Iran has become a new buyer of Ethiopian meat; we may soon enter the Chinese meat market which is obviously huge for us,” the meat expert said. According to the expert, currently Ethiopian meat including internal organs are imported in China through Vietnam. “However, now we are negotiating to begin exporting directly to China,” he noted.
Last fiscal year, meat and livestock exports reached 84 percent of target goals with livestock doing better than meat.
In the past budget year the institute planned to export 25,000 tons of meat and livestock but the exact export was a little over 17,000 tons. According to the institute’s plan, during the last budget year of the GTP the export amount will grow to 111,000 tons. From the total one billion dollars expected to be earned during the same period 400 million dollars are expected to come from meat and the balance from livestock.
The institute director is confident about the success of meeting the targets of the GTP.
“We have huge potential in the sector the only thing that we have to do is expand the capacity of slaughters in terms of quality and quantity,” he strongly said.
The growing industry is closely followed by the Export Coordinator Committee, chaired by PM Meles Zenawi.
Many Middle Eastern countries want to import Ethiopian meat including Turkey which recently entered the market.
“If we expand our market destination and the production quality, we can compete with other countries,” the meat expert said.
On the other hand, the two foreign based companies from Saudi and the US are in the process to commence export of chicken meat. The company from the United States came to Ethiopia recently and leased land between Welechite and Metehara towns in Oromia. It is expected that they will export a large amount of poultry.
The institute head said that the government wants to encourage other local and foreign companies to invest in the meat industry to take advantage of the substantial livestock population.
“The sector is a huge resource,” the head said.
Previously Ethiopia was focusing on exporting sheep and goat meat but now cattle meat exports have been growing. Angola, Egypt and Kuwait are the major buyers of Ethiopian frozen cattle meat, which is transported by ships.
Still Ethiopia has a lower meat price than other countries. A year ago a kilo of exported meat was four dollars. That has risen to five dollars now which makes it around 6.50 dollars by the time it reaches its destination.
Meanwhile, local exporters complain that their meat does not fetch as much as other countries’ exports like Pakistan and Turkey, that go for double the price due to quality and long term established buyers.