The Gako meat project – covering 6,000 hectares in Bugesera District – is promising, and could start generating a return on its estimated $73 million (about Rwf74 billion) investment within five years, officials have said. This was said by officials from the agriculture ministry while appearing before the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this week to respond to cases of public funds mismanagement cited in the Auditor General’s Report for the fiscal year 2020-2021. According to officials, this is Rwanda’s flagship project to increase quality meat production for local and export markets. Initially, it was expected the project would be completed on December 30, 2019. However, Members of PAC expressed concern that it is though the venture is still in its initial phase. According to the report, the Government has so far invested Rwf14.6 billion in constructing infrastructure including roads, water and electricity for the project. Jean-Claude Musabyimana, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources told the lawmakers that this investment was necessary to incentivize the venture for investors. The agreement between the Government of Rwanda and the conglomerate of`13 investors indicated that they should have a business plan and breed beef cattle, as well as the minimum number of cows to be slaughtered. However, the Office of the Auditor General found that there was no business plan, and that it lacked the required cow breed. The project managers said that the investors did not make the business plan and investment before the infield irrigation could be developed, because cattle keeping required water access. Gako Meat Company CEO, Birasa Nyamulinda told PAC members the infield irrigation system is expected to be completed by the end of February next year (2023), while it is planned that the feedlot will be completed in March of the same year. Also, it emerged that the meat production venture faced a challenge of the investors falling short of the required financing. As a result, in 2020, the government decided to venture into it in order to enliven it up. Since then, the project is a public private partnership implemented under the Gako Meat Company Ltd. The government has 52 per cent, while Cattle Ville Ranchers takes 31 per cent and Gako Beef Company (comprising the 13 investors) accounts for 17 per cent. “After realising that the project could be adversely affected, there was its reorientation in 2020, and we agreed that one company – Gako Meat – be established,” Musabyimana observed. Musabyimana indicated that the company is intended to ensure the professional and effective management of the project. The AG’s report indicated that the project would have an abattoir with a capacity to slaughter 300 cows per day, but that such a facility has not yet been set up. MP Germaine Mukabalisa wanted to know a clear roadmap on when the project will be able to slaughter the 300 cows per day as its targeted capacity. “Tell us when you will start producing the amount of meat as set in the feasibility study,” she asked the project leaders. Abattoir with 120 cow capacity set for completion next year Nyamulinda said that an abattoir with a capacity to slaughter at least 120 cows per day under the project, is expected to be completed in August, 2023. He added that they will start with 2,000 bulls, indicating that there are about 1,400 bulls at the project site, adding that efforts including artificial insemination [and bovine embryo transfer technology] are being considered to increase the needed breeds. “We will start from a small feedlot with at least 2,000 bulls and scale up gradually, while for abattoir, the plan is to complete it by the end of August next year. “We will start with an abattoir that will be slaughtering with at least 120 cows per day,” he said, indicating that they realised it was good not good to start with a major abattoir (of 300 cows per day) without having a reliable supply of the raw materials (needed cows). In the feasibility study, the project will have a feedlot capacity of 56,000 bulls, but it is going to start with 2,000 bulls and increase the capacity based on their availability on the market. “We expect a lot from this project, which can contribute to the increase of our country’s exports,” PAC Chairperson, Valens Muhakwa said, urging its managers to ensure its effectiveness by addressing the observed issues. Meanwhile, the AG’s report showed that the project had produced over 62,600 kilogrammes (62.6 tonnes) from December 2021 until March 2022, which generated over Rwf134 million [from local market sales].