The study, which was requested by the Government of Ethopia, was conducted by a team of local specialists, international management consultants, and researchers from food research body CGIAR.
It found that the primary challenge for Ethiopia’s cattle chain is a shortage of animal feed, resulting from drought and land use change. Limited supply has resulted in high feed prices, which in turn has led to high domestic prices and reduced competitiveness on international export markets.
Additionally, high feed costs have reduced incentives for feeding regimes, resulting in “non-uniform” lines of animals being marketed, the report said.
Although the report found some profitability among traders and retailers, it also noted that producer profitability was hampered by late payments. Feedlots reported profitable fattening operations, but the report pointed out that margins were low. “Low margins are, in theory, compensated for by high throughput, but many Ethiopian feedlots are poor users of available capacity and produce small numbers of animals,” it said.
Live cattle exports were further hampered by administrative and structural factors, including the lack of an internationally-recognised quarantine station, minimum weight and price regulations at the border, the inability to source a uniform line of high-quality stock, lack of access to working capital, and the necessity of late payments, the report concluded.
Recommendations in the report included further involvement of the private sector, which it said could provide improved animal health services and credit to producers.
“However, the private sector cannot be expected to enter the live cattle value chain with enthusiasm unless fundamental issues of the profitability of live cattle production are resolved,” it reflected.
It added that “a major branding initiative” would be needed to differentiate Ethopian beef, so it can compete on international markets.
With regards to the problem of animal feed shortages, the report recommended a programme of research into feed production, marketing and use. It said the government could play a “valuable role” in promoting systems that improved feed efficiency.
Finally, the report recommended establishment of a task force, including industry, government and the research community to address the issues and conduct further research in a number of areas including options for market-driven feed provision, costs and barriers to formal export and the infrastructure and procedures for quarantine.
“This task set necessitates formation of a beef industry organisation. It would ideally commission studies and pilot programs, and make recommendations to government based on the results achieved. The funding of such a body would ideally be based on levies of industry actors, supplemented by government funding where public interest is served,” it said.