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Kampala beef sales drop

Beef sales have dropped

Beef sales have dropped

Despite the lifting of quarantine restrictions imposed in Kampala district following an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Kabowa, Lubaga division, on March 1, 2024, beef sales in Kampala have dropped significantly.

This development follows a statement issued on March 11, 2024 by the state minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries, Lt. Col. (Rtd) Dr Bright Rwamirama, which reads: “Reference is made to the quarantine restriction letter dated 1st March 2024 from the Commissioner of Animal Health. The restriction was imposed following a report of a sick animal in a zero-grazing unit in Rubaga Division on 28th February 2024. The technical team has since established that the disease is localized and the affected herd has been put under strict surveillance. Accordingly, the guidelines for safe trade in animal and animal products in non-affected areas, issued on 2nd February 2024, shall apply to Kampala city. Abattoirs operating in non-affected areas/ sub-counties shall continue to operate and receive animals from non-affected areas, provided they do not come from or pass through affected areas.”

The quarantine, though relaxed by Rwamirama, had led to over 35 districts across the country being placed under restrictions to contain the spread of foot and mouth disease. The affected districts include Sembabule, Mubende, Gomba, Kyotera, Lwengo, Kabarole, Rakai, Ngora, Kibuku, Bukedea, Butaleja, Mbarara, among others.

Foot and mouth disease, a viral contagion, predominantly affects animals with cloven hooves, such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. Despite the lifting of quarantine regulations, vendors in butcheries and slaughterhouses in Kampala have reported a significant decrease in customer turnout.

This decline in meat purchases is attributed to public concerns about the potential transmission of the foot and mouth disease from animals to humans. Interviewed for this story, Hajji Juma, of Quality Butcher in Kalerewe, said there has been a noticeable decline in regular customers purchasing meat. Juma emphasized that he carefully sources meat from non-affected areas, particularly favoring districts like Soroti, which remain clear of the disease.

“The foot and mouth disease has led many of our regular customers to avoid buying meat. Instead, they are turning to alternatives like fish and chicken,” observed Muhammed, an employee at Masaka Butcher. “This shift in consumer preference has resulted in a noticeable decrease in our usual meat sales, leading to significant losses,” he added while speaking to this newspaper.

Butayi, a vendor of house utensils in Kalerewe market and a regular beef consumer from the same market, shared her experience: “Ever since I consumed meat last month, just before the cattle quarantine was announced due to foot and mouth disease, I’ve had health complications that hindered my work. This experience has led me to abstain from eating meat until the government confirms that foot and mouth disease is fully controlled and no longer present in cattle.”

When The Observer reached out to Aisha Nalubega, the public relations officer of Kampala City Abattoir, she remarked, “Following the circulation of the ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Animal Husbandry’s letter on 1st March about the foot and mouth disease quarantine, we experienced a decrease in meat purchases. Sales were very slow. Normally, the abattoir slaughters 320 head of cattle on peak days, but since the quarantine announcement, we’ve only managed 120, which is significantly lower.”

She added, “The morale of meat vendors has been greatly affected due to this steep decline in sales.” Discussing measures to detect cattle infected with foot and mouth disease, Nalubega highlighted that the Kampala City Abattoir has a district veterinary officer team on-site to inspect cattle upon entry.

Aisha Nalubega, speaking about the operational procedures at the Kampala City Abattoir, stated, “We have a meat inspector at the abattoir’s gate who checks the permit of the lorries bringing animals for slaughter. If we find a cow showing signs and symptoms of foot and mouth disease, we advise the trader to return it. This is because the government hasn’t established standard operating procedures to accurately identify infected animals. It’s difficult to definitively diagnose foot and mouth disease in cattle.”

Nalubega reassured Kampala city butchery customers that the meat sold undergoes rigorous checks to ensure it meets consumer safety standards. Captain Dennis Aubrey Saazi, managing director of Nsooba Slaughterhouse Limited, emphasized the rigorous checks undertaken to ensure meat safety.

“Foot and mouth disease isn’t new and has always been present in grazing areas. It’s consistently treated. Our process includes an antemortem examination where a veterinary doctor inspects the cattle before they are sold. Upon arrival at the slaughterhouse, they are further examined by government-employed veterinary officers and health inspectors to ensure the meat is fit for human consumption,” he asserted.

Salongo Sekanyo Suleiman, chairman of Nsooba Slaughterhouse in Kalerewe market, Kawempe division, expressed gratitude towards the minister of State for Agriculture, Bright Rwamirama, for easing the quarantine restrictions related to foot and mouth disease. This decision significantly impacted the sales at Nsooba Slaughterhouse.

“We are grateful to the government, especially Minister Bright Rwamirama, for rescuing meat traders by allowing us to continue our business. We’re now focusing on our trade, heeding the minister’s advice to avoid sourcing cattle from areas like Kabowa and Lubaga,” Suleiman stated.

Suleiman mentioned that the quarantine previously led to a decrease in meat consumption, resulting in substantial losses for traders due to consumer skepticism. He noted that prior to the relaxation of the quarantine, the slaughterhouse would process 60 to 100 head of cattle during weekends. However, numbers have since dropped, causing cattle prices to rise from Shs 1 million before the outbreak to Shs 2 million currently, leading to increased meat prices in the butchery.

Sekanyo observed a significant increase in meat prices at butcheries, from Shs 13,000 to Shs 17,000 per kilogram. He reassured customers,

“Our meat is not sourced from quarantine areas. Our slaughterhouse is equipped with sufficient district veterinary officers to ensure the meat sold is free from foot and mouth disease- infected animals,” Sulieman added.

Badru Ntamu, director of Nile Abattoir in Masanafu, reflected on the challenges faced due to the quarantine. “Our business was progressing smoothly until the foot and mouth disease announcement. This led to a sharp decline in meat sales and an increase in cattle prices, as the districts we usually source from were under quarantine. The fear of the disease among people compounded our losses.”

“Even after the quarantine was lifted, the number of meat consumers remains low, while operational costs at the abattoir continue to rise,” Ntamu added. Omulangila Lumansi David, chairman of Nile Abattoir, noted that despite the lifting of the foot and mouth disease restrictions, the number of cattle slaughtered has not returned to pre-quarantine levels. “Before the quarantine, we slaughtered over 150 cows on peak days, which has now dropped to around 70,” he compared.

Lumansi notes that due to the government’s quarantine of 35 districts, there has been a decrease in meat supply, leading to a rise in prices. Previously sold at Shs 13,000 per kilogram, meat now fetches Shs 17,000. He assures customers of Nile Abattoir that all meat is inspected and approved for human consumption by the abattoir’s veterinary officer, evidenced by an official stamp.

In an interview with The Observer, a veterinary doctor, preferring to remain anonymous, discussed foot-and-mouth disease. This viral infection primarily affects livestock such as cows, goats, sheep, and pigs, but does not impact animals like donkeys and horses.

Notably, foot- and-mouth disease encompasses seven serotypes: O, A, C, SAT 1, SAT 2, SAT 3, and Asia 1.

“This disease is transmitted through aerosols, which are tiny droplets released when an animal with foot and mouth disease breathes. As infected animals graze, these aerosols fall to the ground. Uninfected animals, grazing or drinking from the same sources, can contract the virus,” explained the veterinary doctor.

Regarding the symptoms of foot and mouth disease, the doctor, listed several key indicators: high temperatures in animals, reduced feeding, development of sores in the mouth and on the hooves, and constant salivation.

The doctor emphasized the urgency of treating foot and mouth disease promptly upon detection to prevent severe consequences, such as the loss of hooves and mouth parts.

“Symptoms typically appear 14 days post-infection. Poorly nourished animals may exhibit symptoms more quickly,” he added.

Discussing disease control measures, the doctor highlighted the importance of bio-control mechanisms such as quarantining infected animals and controlling grazing distances. Before vaccination, animals are tested to identify the specific strain of the virus, which determines the appropriate vaccine.

“The government provides vaccines for affected animals. Due to limited supplies and high costs, we use ring vaccination, targeting high-risk areas. For example, in my district with 500,000 cows, we only receive 50,000 vaccines. This scarcity means we cannot vaccinate all cattle, thus prioritizing areas with the highest risk,” the doctor concluded.

The veterinary doctor highlighted that human infection with foot and mouth disease (FMD) is rare, occurring only through contact with infected cattle or consuming improperly prepared meat. The doctor advised using disinfectants when in contact with cattle afflicted with FMD to prevent health complications.

Dr Simon Namingira, a general health doctor, clarified, “Foot and mouth disease is zoonotic, but human infection typically occurs through direct contact with infected cattle.”

He cautioned against confusing FMD with the distinct human ailment, hand, foot, and mouth disease, which is a mild viral infection predominantly affecting children, caused by the coxsackie A virus. Dr Namingira noted that FMD has an incubation period of 26 days, with mild, self-limiting symptoms including tingling blisters on hands and feet, fever, sore throat, and blisters in the mouth and on the tongue. Patients usually recover within a week after the last blister forms.

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