Agribusiness: Building capacity for red meat industry

One of the ways to create and build a steady flow of income include red meat processing, butchers, mechanized red meat cuts, steaks of fresh and frozen meat.

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woman with hat standing near meats in a stall
Photo by Yulia Rozanova on Pexels.com

The skills of butchers are valued among meat markets and processors. When the Vice-President, Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG), Emmanuel Ijewere, was moving into the livestock processing industry, he visited South Africa to see what it takes to run a successful beef production.

Rising demand for meat products has been  fuelling market growth and creating many investment opportunities. However, and  in  most parts of Nigeria, meat processing is under developed and hardly goes beyond just slaughtering of the animal.

Ijewere believes leaders within the beef sector have to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to take on investment in the industry.

As an owner of a meat processing business, serving clients in Lekki and Lagos Island, Ijewere was convinced  skilled hands  was the biggest problem facing butcher shop.

He said a skilled workforce is the key ingredient to securing the potential of the red meat and livestock industry.

A common path for an aspiring butcher  was  to simply ask the owner of a butcher shop for an apprenticeship.

But in South Africa, there are well organised meat-cutting programmes where students learn to butcher cow, and about food, health and equipment safety.

While there, Ijewere, who is also the chairman, Best Foods Limited,  saw an industry  where modern consumer trends were helping to create a butchery renaissance.

But in Nigeria, he discovered there was a shortage of skilled and knowledgeable craftsmen who can take a hanging carcass from the plant to portions for the plate.

As a novice, he had to humble himself to learn how to work on a carcass and tools needed for the job. He was taught how to saw back and forth into the meat  and create  ridges and smooth slices.  He did not just see butchery as an entry-level position but an opportunity to demonstrate meat processing skills at the management level.

Today, he is a promoter of best practices in handling a cow from the farm to the butcher to the table. For him, it is paramount that red meat and livestock industry continues to ensure that it has an adequate pool of highly skilled research, development and adoption/extension (RD&A) specialists dedicated to the industry.

At a forum in Lagos, Ijewere said the livestock sector was in need of knowledgeable, customer-oriented and skilled butchers and  meat cutters trained to high standards.

He disclosed that his South African experience exposed him to high standards in the butchery trade.

Nationwide, the meat industry is vast.  Lagos’s red meat industry includes beef, pork, lamb and mutton and goat. There are meat processing companies, manufacturing a wide variety of meat products, from fresh and frozen meat to processed, smoked, canned and cooked meats, as well as sausage and deli meats. Similarly, a lot of options available for someone interested in working in the industry.

One of these is the butcher who slaughters and  prepares  the meat for further processing and packaging for marketing. Across the country, companies are struggling to recruit good hands. As the beef sector is a key driver of economic growth and employment, the Lagos Government  has  raisen to the challenge of  developing manpower  by establishing  a butchers’ academy.

The goal is to train new and existing butchers in best practices on slaughtering in the red meat value chain.

The Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms. Abisola Olusanya, said the academy would attract youths into the sector through the adoption of technology and, in the process, make them the next generation of butchers.

“We have what we call the butchers’ academy coming up where we want to train our existing butchers for them to see the best global practices around slaughtering.

“We want to start bringing in graduates and the youth to be the next generation of butchers but the only way to attract the youth into this sector is to have mechanised and semi-mechanised abattoirs.

“We cannot bring them into the traditional slaughtering on the slab which is not hygienic, wholesome and does not attract the right customers that will pay the margins and will make this sector attractive to people.

“The onus is on us as a government to ensure that we train our existing butchers and also to show the new butchers that this is the system we want to inculcate going forward and we believe that it is just a matter of time before that re-orientation sets in and everyone adopts this technology,” the commissioner said.

Olusanya said that there  were 12 semi and full mechanised operational abattoirs in the state adding that some of them were setup through the public private partnerships.

“We already have a fully mechanised slaughtering Slabhouse at Agege. We have two fully mechanised lines in Agege Oko-Oba Abattoir itself as well as other Public-Private Partnership collaborations, some are semi-mechanised, some are fully mechanised.“We need to understand also that having the kind of butchers that we have today and the mindset, they are traditionally entrenched in their way of doing things.“Inasmuch as we also want to move at a pace in line with global best practices, we need to have some patience and give a little bit of time for them to adopt new technologies before they move fully into what is global best practice.

“The semi-mechanised line actually gives a sort of midway intersection and flexibility between what exists already and what we want to get to. So what we will be having going forward will be a mix of semi-mechanised and fully mechanised abattoirs,” the Commissioner said.

She urged butchers to embrace technology in order to enrich themselves and make their work easier, faster and more profitable.

The commissioner noted that semi-mechanised abattoir at Bariga would create about 2000 direct and indirect jobs when fully operational,  adding that the aim of the partnership was to show Lagosians the need for safe, sanitised and hygienic slaughtering of meat.

“We are at the semi-mechanised abattoir in Bariga, which is a Public-Private Partnership between the Lagos State Government and a private player, Lion Unisco.

“This project has been in the fore for the last couple of months and we are here for an actual test-run with anticipation that we should have it operational by the end of the year.

“By right, this abattoir should have direct employment generation of well over 500 people and indirect employment of another 1,000 people, so in this facility alone, we should be having employment generation activities of between 1,500 to 2,000 people.

“In the last couple of months, the state government had embarked on a sensitisation programme on monitoring, enforcement and compliance to ensure that the illegal abattoirs and slaughter slabs are shut down.“It is this kind of facilities that we are trying to promote,” she said.

Olusanya said that the state government is receptive to the idea of collaborating with the private sector participants to have facilities such as the Bariga abattoir with a view to ensuring the proper slaughtering of meat in a hygienic and wholesome manner.

“There is another abattoir in Badagry, Trans Selectal Abattoir, coming up shortly by December also. All this goes to show that in terms of our reforms in the red meat value chain, we are very serious about changing the narrative going forward.

“We have seen the impact of COVID-19 and we have seen that there is a second wave in different areas around the globe and what this means is that, we as Nigerians need to take responsibility and begin to ask for safe and hygienic slaughtering conditions for the meat and food we consume’’.

“That is why we are seeing a trend now where a lot of our private sector players that we have entered into agreements with are also trying to speed up the com.”

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