A blessing. A disguise.
Malawi’s current beat shortages have become much more than a blessing in disguise as the country’s top meat suppliers, who are facing capital-busting supply chain hiccups, have devised cushioning mechanisms to beat the crisis.
The country is some two moths’ old into an unprecedented beef crisis, a development suppliers blame on Foot and Mouth disease that has hit the Lower Shire districts of Chikhwawa and Nsanje. These are the country’s beef supply hubs.
A snap survey conducted on Wednesday revealed that, while tell-tale signs of the crisis are there for all to see, most suppliers still have stocks of meat. It was also clear that the situation was much better than a month ago.
Visits to Chichiri Shoprite, PTC Superete in Blantyre, Super Halaal, S&A Cold Storage, Chirimba, Ndirande and Chilomoni Markets revealed that, contrary to the situation early November, beef products were available.
However, this contradicted sharply with the situation is such shops as Chitawira Shopping Centre, Ginnery Corner Sana Cash ‘n’ Carry, Ndirande PTC, Limbe Shoprite, among others, where other meat products were in good supply.
One of Southern region’s top beef suppliers, who also runs a retail meat products’ outlet, S&A Cold Storage’s co-managing director, Abida Mia, said on Wednesday that the issue of beef shortage was no longer a crisis, saying most suppliers have come up with ways of making up for the shortfall.
Mia said S&A Cold Storage was still able to supply beef to Southern region’s main beef outlets because it was sourcing livestock from areas that have not been affected by Foot and Mouth disease.
“Things are better now. We are still meating the demand for beef and supplying to most shops that depend on our meat products,” said Mia.
She was also hopeful that things could come back to normal once the Department of Livestock Production of the Ministry of Agriculture lifts the movement-ban on movement of cattle from the Lower Shire.
“We are hoping that, with reports that the ban may be lifted on December 2, beef supply will reach normal levels. But, as I said, the supply of beef can no more be described as a crisis. We are able to supply products,” she said.
However, a worker at Blantyre’s PTC Superete said the situation has not improved at all. He said the shop has had no beef for over a month now, though he admitted that consumers had alternatives in chicken meat, sausages, and fish.
These commodities, he said, have never run out of supply since the beef crisis emerged in the wake of the Lower Shire travel ban imposed on animals.
Other visits to Chilomoni’s Nthukwa market and Chirimba in Blantyre revealed that both goat meat and beef were available.
Joe Sato, one of the beef sellers, said traders were purchasing the commodity in Mwanza.
He said the K1000 per Kg cost was meant to make up for transportation costs incurred in ferrying the animals to Blantyre.
“There is no beef around, and we get ours from far. In addition, we don’t use road transport but hire people who ferry the animals from Mwanza. At the moment, the charge per animal is K7900. This is why we are selling beef at K1000 and people are still buying,” Sato said.
He added that, should the ban not be lifted, the price per kg of beef could go as high as K2000.
“We are nearing the festive season when the cost of commodities is bound to go up. I don’t rule out a rise in beef prices should things not improve,” he said.
Ministry of Agriculture officials announced three weeks ago that they would analyze the situation and, should it be promising, lift the ban on cattle movement.