Meat dealers have been urged to change mindsets and embrace technology to boost the sector.
The call was made this week when officials from the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM) and Rwanda Meat Value Chain Platform (RMVCP) met dealers in the Eastern Province. Officials said Rwanda had a large but unexploited market due to lack of professionalism in the sector.
Meat value chain involves farmers, livestock dealers, slaughterhouses, veterinary doctors, among other groups that were represented in the meeting, which was also attended by officials from Rwanda Agriculture Board.
Francois Kimonyo, the chairperson of RMVCP, told participants that though the business has been there for long, people still do it unprofessionally.
“We always hear of new international hotels opening, but they buy their meat products abroad yet we have abattoirs. They go abroad because professionalism is still lacking in Rwandan meat sector,” he said.
“We should change mindsets to be professional in our business because it is to our advantage”.
He said that there is livestock that is exported, especially to DR Congo, yet they could be exported as value added meat.
“We lose a lot of money when we sell livestock to people who basically need meat. Those hides are given to them for free, hooves, horns and more, and yet they come and sell those products to us again,” he said.
Operators were urged to use advanced butchery equipment, because it gives more benefits.
“If a cow is skinned with a machine, its hide will be far more valuable than using a knife. When you use rudimentary tools, you get one third of the one who uses advanced methods,” said Kimonyo, adding that the latter method is even more hygienic.
Kimonyo said hygiene should be the first instrument for meat sector dealers to achieve professionalism “from farm to table.”
“Right from the farm, feed must be hygienic, livestock transport should be appropriate and slaughterhouse clean,” he said.
Currently, Rwanda Agriculture Board recognises six abattoirs, and none of them is from Eastern Province, he said, but said the platform will organise the members to acquire at least one abattoir in the province.
Kimonyo said most farmers in the province keep dairy cattle. “But we should develop beef cattle too”.
Ossiniel Nshimiyumukiza, the Community Processing Centres Specialist at MINICOM, said abattoirs and meat dealers need to embrace technology to be able to satisfy the available market, and also to make sure that Made-in-Rwanda programme is well promoted in the meat sector.
“In all the top hotels we have in the country, no Rwandan company supplies them meat. We do not only need to look at the Rwandan market, but we also need to seize even opportunities across our borders,” he said.
“DR Congo is a meat market in itself. It imports around $107 million worth of meat every year, according to 2016 data. Why can’t we change and sell them added-value meat instead of selling livestock alive?” he said, adding that not even a kilo of added-value meat was imported by the aforementioned country from Rwanda, only live animals.
Nadine Manirafasha, a meat dealers’ representative from Kiziguro Sector, Gatsibo District, said the major problem they face in their business was lack of coordination.
“If everyone in this sector did their business more professionally; veterinary doctors, livestock dealers, meat dealers, and others, I believe that everything will be sorted,” she added.