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Gloomy forecast for Kenya livestock sector

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 23 – The country will lose an estimated Sh10 billion if the current drought leads to the massive deaths of livestock in the Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASAL) Districts.

Livestock Development Minister Mohamed Kuti warned that about 13 million animals in the dry areas alone were at risk of dying and their poor health due to lack of sufficient food and water were attracting extremely low selling prices.

“The rise in cereal prices further poses grave danger to the livestock industry, which relies on cereal based feeds. Poultry and pig availability will be a challenge as most farmers are bound to drop out of commercial production due to reduced feed availability,” he told reporters on Friday.

This situation, he warned, was likely to affect the livelihood of approximately 3.5 million inhabitants, who depend on the animals and who also have to grapple with the problem of high food prices.

In Nairobi and Mombasa, the prices of cattle for example have since December last year declined by 12 percent, while those of goats have fallen from an average of Sh3,046 to Sh2,660 and Sh2,695 to Sh2,555 respectively.

“The majority of the pastoralists and marginal agricultural farm households access most of their household food needs through animal sales. While their income sources are declining, the cost of food has risen by 100 percent in the last six months, thereby compromising their purchasing power,” the minister sympathised.

It is estimated that the livestock sector contributes about 12 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

Mr Kuti however said that his ministry had taken several strategic measures such as the purchase of the affected livestock, to help mitigate the effects of the drought.

The Minister disclosed that the government would spend Sh500 million to purchase 30,000 heads of cattle that could die in the ongoing drought, and process it into corned beef.

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He further added that the Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) would process the off-take animals into beef, which would then be distributed as relief supplies.

“We have an arrangement with the Ministry of Special Programmes to buy the corned beef as part of the relief food, so that it can be distributed back to the communities,” he said, adding that the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) would also lend Sh65 million to private sector players who would be willing to purchase the animals.

Pointing out that the government’s resources were constrained, Mr Kuti advised farmers to sell-off their livestock so that they could have money to meet their financial obligations and re-stock once the drought is over.

At the same time, he said an additional Sh150 million would be spent to purchase and distribute animal feed supplements to farmers in badly hit areas.

The ministry would also intervene in the treatment of sick animals, vaccination and the provision of certain animal diseases such as foot and mouth, anthrax and trypanosomes.

The exercise, he said, would target 6.5 million cattle, 3.5 million sheep and goats, 10,000 camels and two million chickens at a cost of Sh50million. Districts would be facilitated to speedily respond to outbreak reports from livestock owners.

Meanwhile, the ministry has announced that it has managed to contain the Pestes Des Petit (PPR) outbreak in some parts of the country, which now has the capacity for confirmatory diagnosis.

The viral disease, which affects goats and sheep, is suspected to have come into Kenya through Sudan in 2006, and from Ethiopia and Somalia in 2008, leading to the deaths of several animals.

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