Chad invests in beefing up meat exports

STORY: This state of the art processing facility is at the heart of plans to transform Chad's meat exports and in doing so beef up the economy of one of the world's least developed countries.

Laham Tchad aims to process and export 200 cattle and 400 small animals daily, as it competes against Indian, Argentine, and Brazilian meats.

It started exporting frozen meat to Gabon in June and is also targeting markets like Egypt and Nigeria.

"They used to slaughter animals on the street."

Akshay Rajoria, Laham's assistant quality manager, said they plan to set up more units because demand is high.

"Now we have set up a proper unit where we can put every food safety norm, and we are ensuring that our product is 100 percent safe."

Chad's meat push seems like a natural move in a country with an estimated 110 million head of cattle.

The livestock sector was already of a cornerstone of the economy, second only to oil, and contributes 30% to GDP according to World Bank figures.

Livestock breeder Mahamat Ali says meeting demand from new slaughterhouses will not be a problem.

"We are able to supply as many cattle as they require. Slaughterhouses are collective goods which bring resources into our country and we’re going to help them sustain exports."

Ali believes the pivot to processed meat exports could reshape Chad's economic landscape - generating revenue and creating jobs.

But the transition is also complex.

Chad's pastoralist setup does not yield standardized livestock.

Sourcing ideal weight and vaccinated animals remains a challenge, as does competing with cheaper exports from industrialized countries.

Laham is 65% owned by Arise Integrated Industrial Platforms and the rest by the Chadian state.

And Arise's national partnerships director, Abdelrazic Hassane Arabi, argues that the pastoralist approach to livestock breeding is an advantage.

"It is through this breeding that the whole program was built. This is how we are going to compete in all markets at the international level."

Arise is a pan-African venture partly owned by the Africa Finance Corporation.

At Laham, plans include building Chad's first livestock quarantine zone and fattening farm.

That's part of Arise's wider push to create seven specialized industrial zones with investment of more than $350 million.