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Meat Shortage Bites As Slaughterhouses are Shut

Taita-Taveta County is reeling from an unprecedented shortage of beef and meat products after slaughter houses in the region were shut down as part of measures taken to combat the possible spread of Coronavirus.
Hardest hit by the closures are hundreds of butcheries in Voi, Wundanyi and Mwatate town who rely on meat supply from the licensed slaughterhouses.
To stay afloat, some traders have started ordering meat from slaughterhouses in Mariakani and Makindu in Kilifi and Makueni counties respectively.
“Things are bad. We really have to improvise to survive because we can’t get any supply,” said Mr. Peter Mwambi, a butcher in Birikani in Voi.
Despite the shortage, the traders have not hiked the prices with a kilo of beef still going for 380 shillings.
Mr. Mwambi however said the situation might change due to the high costs of transporting meat over such long distances.
“We have not hiked the price but if operations in our slaughter houses do not resume soon, we might be forced to increase the prices to cover the expenses of transporting meat from such long distances,” he said.
A similar situation prevails in Wundanyi and Mwatate with residents saying they have gone for over a week without beef products.
Simon Macharia, a trader in Mwatate, said after the closure of butcheries, most people resorted to cereals to supplement their protein diet.
“There is no meat here since the butcheries were closed. Families with a chicken they can slaughter feel like royalty,” he said.
In Taveta, a few butchery owners with some stock are making a kill as customers flock to their premises.
However, traders have warned that the closure will not only lead to business losses but will also create a shortage of an important foodstuff that is a necessary diet for the residents.
Mr. Kenneth Zenge, former county chair of Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the move to close slaughterhouses was not well-informed.
He noted that the country still needed meat to supplement food supplies and said the county should have enhanced the safety standards in slaughterhouses and meat handling.
“The closure shocked us because no one expected it. Apart from losing business, people will also not get meat which is an important part of our diet,” he said.
He disclosed that traders were mulling the possibility of pooling their resources together to be transporting their livestock to abattoirs in Makueni or Kilifi, which are still operational.
The closure order by the county government is one amongst several safety measures put in place to combat the coronavirus.
Others include suspension of crowding in weddings, birthdays and burials, closing down of hotels and closure of the major markets.
By Wagema Mwangi

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