Experts puzzled by transfer of KMC to Defence ministry

Thursday, September 10th, 2020 00:00 | By
Livestock at a slaughterhouse Photo/PD/File

Lewis Njoka and Nicholas Waitathu

The government has transferred Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) from the Ministry of Agriculture to that of Defence in a move that has confounded many.

In a letter dated September 7, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Peter Munya directed Livestock Principal Secretary to facilitate a smooth transfer of the troubled meat processor to Ministry of Defence in line with an earlier presidential directive.

“Following the transfer of the ministerial responsibility of the Kenya Meat Commission to the Ministry of Defence by the President, you are directed to facilitate a seamless transfer of the Kenya Meat commission to the Ministry of Defence,” part of the letter reads.

“Ensure you co-ordinate the entire exercise with National Treasury and transfer the associated budgets at the next scheduled supplementary budget.

You are required to submit a fortnight report to my office on the progress made,” Munya added. 

Livestock Principal Secretary, Harry Kimutai, defended the transfer, saying the move will give a new lease of life to the institution which has been grappling with the lack of market for its products.

Executive order

He said the executive order guiding the smooth running of the government-owned meat processor was in force and that the Ministry of Agriculture would continue working closely with KMC. 

“The Kenya Defence Force and the military will form one of our buy Kenya, build Kenya strategy where KMC will supply meat to the armed forces.

The reorganisation will help in the management and ease of things,” said Kimtai.

He said the ministry has since cleared paying a balance of Sh256 million that KMC owed farmers.

“We have been paying farmers through the off-takes, during the last financial year, and then whatever was owed we paid within the current financial year,” Kimtai added.

Right now, he said KMC does not owe farmers any outstanding debts, adding: “We are now in modernisation, and implementing the economic stimulus which is supporting the livestock subsector.”

However, food security experts described the move as puzzling, saying it borders on commercialisation of the military and that the meat processor was functionally misplaced in the Ministry of Defence.

 “It doesn’t make sense. If you look at the functions of KMC, meat value addition and marketing, the functions are with the Department of Livestock where it was based.

Even Ministry of Trade would have been better than Defence,” said Timothy Njagi, a research fellow at Tegemeo Institute.

Njagi, however, said he did not expect the transfer to have much effect on farmers’ well-being as the processor has been performing dismally even after efforts by successive governments to resuscitate it.

“We are talking about something that has not been functioning as expected. The effect would have been if we are talking about a vibrant organisation,” he added.

Alexander Owino, a consultant at the Route to Food Initiative, described the transfer as a move in the wrong direction saying it seemed wrong from a commercial, agricultural, and food security perspective.

Disciplined forces

“I think it’s very unusual. Commercialising the military is bad economic policy. Where do you stop? Will I get soldiers teaching my children tomorrow?” he posed.

Owino said the disciplined forces could only be used to offer humanitarian and logistical support in times of emergency noting that countries such as Egypt and Pakistan which have commercialized their military are doing poorly socially and economically. 

The meat processor has been struggling with an ageing plant and delayed payment to farmers leading to an unreliable supply of raw materials which slowed down operations prompting the government to baile out the meat processor often.  

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