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The Ethiopian Meat Exporters Association stated that abbatoirs and meat exporters are not operating at full capacity, preventing the country from earning increased foreign exchange from the sector.
Meat exporters have been limited to exporting cabrito  and mutton, as beef export has apparently been virtually halted due to several factors. Last year, the country earned USD 231 million from meat and livestock exports in a period of just 10 months, according to a report from the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA). 71 percent of this revenue was from the export of livestock. Meat exports during the same period accounted for only 29 percent of the total. The largest annual meat exports of the country to date amounted to only 17,000 tons, according to Tamirat Ejigu, Secretary General of the Ethiopian Meat Exporters Association (EMEA).
EMEA was established in 2004 by five companies; – Elfora Agro Industry, Luna Expert Slaughter House Plc, Modjo Modern Export Abbatoir (MMEA), Export and Organic Abbatoir Slaughter, and Hashim Nuru Slaughter.
According to Tamirat, currently operating exporters and slaughterhouses are those who export cabrito and mutton. “Beef exports have totally stopped,” said the Secretary General of the association. The domestic price for beef has phenomenally increased and it has been quite difficult for exporters to find a market that will pay a better price for beef than the Ethiopian market.
Fufa Dufera (Dr.), General Manager of Export and Organic Abattoir Slaughter, agrees with Tamirat that the domestic price for beef is surprisingly higher than the price elsewhere in the world. As a result his company managed to export beef only a couple of times.
Tamirat believes the increase in domestic price of meat is because of high inflation in the past several years. Fufa, on his part, claims illegal trading in livestock is the root cause for the scarcity in supplies to the exporting abattoirs and the local market, which in turn has created the price hike. “Pastoralists sustain themselves by involving in illegal trading, selling off their cattle across national borders, to buy other basic goods and it isn’t easy to stop this activity,” Tamirat told Capital.  “As a result, dealings in contraband goods and trading in illegal livestock will continue to harm exports and earnings,” he added. Furthermore, limited experience in animal husbandry among pastoralists will worsen the issue, Tamirat said. “We need to work on animal husbandry which can help create a sustainable source for abattoirs,” he stated. Limited access to transportation is yet another challenge.
Tamirat said his association is working with other associations in East Africa and IGAD to eliminate illegal trading in livestock.
The North Eastern Africa Livestock Council (NEALCO), an association formed to collectively resolve common problems, has been set up a year ago, he said. Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia are members of the association.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Yemen and other Middle Eastern countries consume cabrito, especially from the Ogaden. Researchers indicated that cabrito from the Ogaden area are found to be very good for health purposes, according to Tamirat. “We did very little to promote that and increase our benefit from it,” he said. Ethiopian livestock meat is currently sold at USD 5 per kilogram.