On the 10th of May a report surfaced on an African news service claiming that Kenya was set to “export 700,000 head of cattle to Indonesia“, which if true would be a significant concern for the Australian live export cattle trade. A bit of digging around by the Episode 3 team seems to suggest that this is pretty implausible.
Accurate data on the Kenyan live cattle trade is pretty hard to find but two relatively reputable sources (UN Comtrade and WITS) have demonstrated that since 2015 Kenya has been a net importer of live cattle.
A look at the net volumes of cattle into/out of Kenya since 2000 shows that they were a pretty small net exporter up until 2014. Although there is some suggestion of grey channels existing for unofficial traffic of cattle into and from countries that share a land border with Kenya, so the official figures may not be truly representative of the net flows.
A 2013 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO) report highlighted that Kenyan beef consumption more than doubled from 1990 to 2009 and that during the 2000 to 2010 period Kenya became less self sufficient in local beef production meeting the needs of the domestic consumer. Indeed, a 2006 Deloitte report estimated that Kenya imported 25%-30% of its beef through the unofficial movement of cattle across its borders, and about 2 million beef cattle entered the country annually.
Kenya’s status as a net importer of live cattle in recent years is confirmed by the official data so we consider it quite unlikely that Kenya is attempting to export 700,000 head of cattle to Indonesia. As Landline’s Matt Brann has pointed out on social media there may have been some crossed lines in the media reporting as Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary posted on Twitter that Kenya is seeking protocols to export just 20,000 head.