Published on 03 Jan 2022

Tanzania to double meat exports by 2025

Africa’s second largest livestock keeper is trying to enter the Middle East market

By Johan Burger and Amit Jain

When it comes to the size of livestock, Tanzania is only second to Ethiopia. Its livestock sector expanded by 5% in 2020, contributing 7.1% to the country’s GDP. According to the 2020 Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Census the country’s cattle herds grew from 33.4m in 2019/2020 to 33.9m in 2020/2021. Most of its livestock produce is for domestic consumption. Up until 2019, Tanzania exported 4000 tons of meat each year. As the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020, it fell to a mere 1,774 tons. Not deterred by recent setbacks the government sees the potential of exporting 10000 tons of meat by 2025. Recent export figures are encouraging. From July to October 2021, 2,000 tons were exported, indicating a strong bounce back.

According to Tanzania’s Minister for Livestock and Fisheries, Mashimba Ndaki, meat production increased by 5.2% in 2020 to 738,166 tons, up from 701,700 tons in 2019. Of this, over 508,000 tons was beef. The rest came from chickens, goats, sheep, and pork.

Saudi Arabia represents a huge market and export opportunity for Tanzania as it imports 700,000 tons of meat annually. But ever since the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in east Africa, Tanzanian producers have not been able to export to the oil-rich gulf kingdom. The government of Tanzania is now negotiating with the Saudi Arabia Food and Drugs Authority (SFDA) to lift the import ban. SFDA officers visited Tanzania in August 2020 to inspect abattoirs and slaughter facilities. Tanzania is now working to improve conditions based on its report. The government is also encouraging producers to establish offices in countries with potential opportunities. Exporters from Africa to the Middle East, however, must face competition from Australia, Brazil, India, and Pakistan that currently dominate the market. There are plans to export to China as well.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) the Top 10 beef producers in Africa are: South Africa (15.76%), Tanzania (7.31%), Kenya (7.05%), Chad (6.97%), Ethiopia (5.97%), Sudan (5.92%), Egypt (5.82%), Nigeria (5.03%), Morocco (4.32%), and South Sudan (3.53%). These 10 countries account for 67.68% of Africa’s beef. There is, however, no correlation between the size of the cattle and beef exports. Ethiopia, which has the largest cattle herds in Africa (more than double that of Tanzania) is the fifth biggest beef producer in Africa. Its meat output, however, is only 38% of that of South Africa, which tops the list.

We also find that meat exporters are also meat importers. South Africa is a case in point. It is a net importer of mutton and lamb, but a net exporter of live sheep, lamb and mutton. It is a net exporter of beef, but also imports relatively large volumes of beef.

One reason why South Africa’s red meat industry exports some of its production is because export markets offer price premiums over the domestic market. Exporters, however, differentiate between exporting to premium-priced markets, such as the US, UK, and Europe, and exporting to price-sensitive markets such as those in Asia and other African countries. For example, South Africa’s red meat exports to price-sensitive markets allow it to sell excess produce that the local market cannot absorb.

The prospects for increasing Tanzanian beef exports to China received a boost when President Xi Jinping pledged US$30bn for trade finance to grow imports from Africa at the recent FOCAC Summit in Senegal. Should Tanzania be able to address the issue regarding foot-and-mouth restrictions, in addition to tapping into the Chinese market, its beef exports have the potential to turn into a major source of foreign exchange.


Additional readings:

Cook, R. 2021. Ranking of Countries in Africa that produce the most beef (FAO). Beef2Live. 20 November 2021. Available at  Accessed 22 November 2021.

Tanzania ‘can benefit from meat exports.’ Poultry & Livestock Review Africa.22 November 2021. Available at Accessed 22 November 2021.

Mare, F. 2021. What SA’s red meat industry must fix before scaling up exports. Farmer’s Weekly. 22 April 2021. Available at  Accessed 22 November 2022.


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