City abattoirs have been struggling to maintain supply of meat for the past several weeks due to shortage of cows available for slaughter, Business Times has learnt. Butchery operators and cattle dealers say the situation could only get worse, noting that some butchers around the city have closed shop as they cannot get meat to sell.
Bosco Munana, a meat seller in Kimironko Market, is worried the shortage of animals for slaughter might force more people out of business, if the challenge it is not addressed soon.
“The problem has persisted for some time now. These days, it is normal to go to the slaughterhouse and you come back empty-handed. Therefore, the high prices are a symptom of a bigger problem,” Munana says.
Alphonse Karangwa, a cattle dealer, says the prices for cows have gone up.
“A cow that we used to buy at Rwf200,000 a month ago, now costs Rwf250,000. Those that were ranging from Rwf300,000-Rfw350,000, go for Rwf450,000-500,00,” explains Karangwa.
Beef cost Rfw2,200 per kilogramme, up from about Rwf1,800–Rwf1,900 a month ago.
A customer found at a grocery in Kimironko Market said the family now eats meat once week from thrice times previously. She added that she has also reduced the number of kilogrammes she used to buy from three kilogrammes to two kilos.
Where have the cattle gone?
Jack Hagumimana, a butcher at Nyabugogo abattoir, says previously they would slaughter over 120 heads of cattle daily, but currently only 50 cows are slaughtered.
Samuel Simpuga, a butcher from Kicukiro abattoir, says they now slaughter 15 animals a day, down from 40 heads of cattle a few weeks back.
“We are facing a lot of competition from traders from DR Congo and Uganda, who are buying cows for export to South Sudan,” explains Simpunga. He claims that for them, they are prohibited from importing cattle. So, the few available cattle on the local market are bought off by Congolese and Ugandans cattle traders.”
He adds that the Congolese even buy the cows from abattoirs.
Karangwa says though there is increasing demand from outside Rwanda, some farmers are reluctant to sale ‘thin’ cattle as it has been a dry season. “Farmers say selling such cows would lead to losses…So they are waiting for the rainy season when the cows will have fattened to fetch more on the market,” he says.
According to Rwanda Agriculture Board statistics for 2014, Rwanda’s current livestock population consists of 1,143,553 cattle, 2,532,277 goats, 630,860 sheep, 1,014,629 pigs, 4,016,837 chicken and 1,003,485 rabbits.
Meat consumption rate stands at 7.59kg per person annually compared to 30kg recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Rwanda Agricultural Board speaks out
Speaking to Business Times last week, Dr Isidore Gafarasi, the director of veterinary and laboratory services at Rwanda Agriculture Board, acknowledged that there is scarcity of cattle in the Eastern Province, especially in Nyagatare District. He, however, refuted claims of countrywide scarcity. He said there are enough cattle to serve the local market in Ngororero, Gicumbi, Gakenke, Nyabihu, Huye, Ruhango and Kamonyi districts.
Gafarasi explained, however, that the scarcity was inevitable, arguing that the demand for cattle and meat has gone up as the standards of living increase in Rwanda. He, however, agreed that external demand was putting more pressure on the local market.
“It is true that farmers are selling some cattle to the DR Congo and South Sudan, but it is also true that Rwandan cattle dealers are allowed to bring in cows from outside Rwanda as long as they fulfill guidelines, like ensuring the cattle have no diseases and are fit for rearing or human consumption. We cannot put trade barriers on the cattle dealers buying cows from Rwanda because the business is legal,” Gafarasi said.
Gafarasi advised farmers to venture into rearing animals such as pigs and rabbits, or even chicken, saying they produce quickly and are easy to manage. He advised cattle dealers to change their mind-set and start looking for cattle from across the country, but not focusing on Eastern Province. He argued that local dealers should also offer farmers competitive prices to counter external buyers.