13 August 2016

Ugandans should eat well-processed meat

President Museveni on Thursday opened a new meat processing factory on the Gulu-Kampala road built by Egyptian investors. The plant, owned by Egypt-Uganda Food Security Company Ltd, is expected to process meat products for export. It is fully automated from slaughter to skinning.

The investment should come as fresh air to a polluted industry that has failed to modernise all these years. Indeed Uganda’s meat industry remains one of the most unregulated in region. Anyone can wrestle down a cow, goat or sheep anywhere in the backyard, slaughter it using a machete, skin it and take it to the market for sale at dusty shacks.

The animals slaughtered in the town abattoirs are transported long distances with risk of spreading disease. Some die along the way and the beef still ends up in the butcheries were unsuspecting buyers simply pick it up and eat with different consequences.
And it has been like this for years. In fact since the closure of Uganda Meat Packers factory then based in Soroti in the late 1980s, we have had no large industrial scale meat processing factories beyond the cottage sausage-making plants.

The opening of this processing plant should, therefore, interest other players in the industry notably the ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, and as well as municipal authorities across the country that preside over rotten abattoirs to think hard about how they can improve their facilities but more importantly beef up production and consumption.

Our meat consumption figures, according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation are not very impressive. As of 2012, per capita availability of meat in Uganda is low estimated at 12.1 kg, of which beef constitutes 6.3kg compared to 50kg of meat recommended by FAO and WHO.

Be that as it may, the investment in processing meats for export should come with clear and sustained investment in producing more animals so that the beef industry does not suffer the fate of the fish industry that boomed and collapsed. Apparently the myriad factories that set up base around the shore of Lake Victoria simply fished out the fish and exported without corresponding investment in re-stocking. Several years down the road, there was no more fish in the lake, and no more exports.

The concerned government departments should, therefore, not just imagine that there will always be cattle, goats and sheep to feed the factories. They must start to focus on how to help farmer increase their animal stocks.


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