Tanzania: Where Is the Beef? Tanzania Has the Potential to Be One of Africa's Biggest Exporters of Beef and Livestock but a Moribund Infrastructure, Diseases and Poor Marketing Get in the Way. Herald Tagama Reports on Efforts to Revive the Industry

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Tanzania's national cattle herd is the third largest in Africa at 17m head--after Ethiopia and Sudan with 31m and 30m respectively. Yet it earns only a paltry $4m from the export of cattle, beef and related products, compared to the $100m Botswana earns from this agro-sector.

The government, with the support of international organisations, is now determined to reverse this trend and turn cattle into a major revenue generating resource--but obstacles remain.

The country's industrial beef production went into a tail spin when the collapse of the state-owned Tanganyika Packers Ltd in 1974 was followed, a year later, by the spread of various cattle diseases. This resulted in Tanzania losing its export sanitary certificate.

Now only small-scale meat processing plants scattered around the country can hardly cope even with local demand. Transporting cattle is another problem. Cattle are mainly reared in the Arusha, Dodoma, Shinyanga and Singida regions but transporting them to the sea port of Dar es Salaam for export means enduring poor roads that are virtually impassable in the rainy season, or a slow and unreliable rail journey lacking adequate watering facilities in transit.

Tanzania also produces around 1bn litres of milk a year, but dairy processing plants cannot cope with this quantity and logistical problems means fresh milk does not reach large parts of the country.

Cattle smuggling out of Tanzania to neighbouring Kenya, DRCongo and Zambia continues to thrive. An Informal Cross-border Livestock Trade Report by the Ministry of Water and Livestock Development (MWLD) estimates that over a quarter of a million head are smuggled over Tanzania's land borders each year.

THE IMPACT OF DISEASE

Perhaps the biggest hurdle facing the ranching sector in Tanzania is the prevalence of bovine diseases. More than 80% of the 1,998 cattle dips in the country are malfunctioning, and veterinary extension services are poor. Veterinary drugs are difficult to obtain in the rural areas, and in the few areas where they are available, prices are too high for small-scale herders to afford. As a result, pests and diseases are rampant, with high livestock deaths.

The MWLD acknowledges: "The high prevalence of transboundary animal diseases being experienced in the country is a great hindrance to the international trade in livestock and livestock products besides compromising local productivity."

Contagious Bovine Pleuropnemonia (CBPP), East Coast Fever (ECF), Trypanosomiasis, Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD), African Swine Fever (ASF) and Newcastle Disease (ND) are endemic in Tanzania.

CBPP was eradicated in 1965 when livestock services were good but it made a comeback in 1990 and has never receded. Between 1992 and 2000, it killed 350,000 cattle, worth an estimated Tsh28bn ($25m). But East Coast Fever is the leading cattle killer disease. It is responsible for 65% of all cattle deaths in Tanzania.

However, Tanzania has posted one success story with the control of Rinderpest. Since 2002, the European Union (EU) has been funding projects against its vector, the tsetse fly, in Kagera and Tanga regions. The International Atomic Energy Agency assisted Tanzania to modernise and equip the Tanga Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Research Institute to produce sterilised male tsetse flies. When these flies are released in the wild, they 'displace' other males, mate with females, but do not reproduce. Tanzania pioneered the project and subsequently wiped out the insects in Zanzibar. …