Developing countries and the global livestock trade
The global demand for meat and milk is growing, as populations increase and incomes rise. Retailers and fast food outlets are benefiting but is this growth reducing poverty in developing countries?
Meat consumption per capita is relatively stable in the developed world, but between 1980 and 2002, annual per capita meat consumption doubled in developing countries, and this trend is likely to continue. The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that global meat and milk production must double by 2050 – a huge opportunity for developing country suppliers.
However, the estimated 987 million poor people who rely on livestock are unlikely to benefit:
- The increasing global production in livestock products is dominated by a few countries, notably Brazil and China (for meat) and India (for milk); African countries contribute just two percent of global trade.
- Much of this increase has been industrialised production, which often excludes and undermines small producers.
Increasing access to global livestock markets
Inefficient supply and production systems limit access to export markets in most developing countries. This barrier has been overcome in other agricultural sectors, however; horticultural exports contribute significantly to smallholder incomes in Kenya, Ghana and Senegal. What is holding back the livestock sector?
International standards governing the global livestock trade focus on the geographical origin of a product, and the disease status of that region. This favours developed countries that have removed significant livestock diseases. Countries or regions with a particular livestock disease have little chance of fully eradicating them in the near future, meaning few options for accessing lucrative international markets.
Alternative quality control standards
One alternative is for international standards to adopt a 'commodity-based' approach. This means a focus on the quality of each product and how it was produced, rather than where it originated. This would not undermine disease control and eradication measures, as countries would actually have greater incentives to strengthen veterinary services and improve disease control.
Currently, such commodity standards are almost non-existent. However, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has recently recognised this, and the Terrestrial Animal Health Standards Commission plans to ensure that requirements in the OIE Code relevant to commodities trade get more attention. In the coming years, developing countries must prioritise developing further commodity standards that meet market demands.
There will be challenges while these new standards are formed and tested. For example, the European Union, an influential importer, inspects the veterinary authorities of a country to determine their ability to meet EU standards (called 'pre-listing'). They recognise very few developing country authorities as competent, so global markets are likely to remain closed in the short to medium term. Developing countries must find new ways to certify their livestock commodities whilst supporting their 'competent' veterinary authorities.
More developing countries need to trade their livestock products with both developed and developing countries:
- The international community must understand the potential of new product standards to increase market access for developing countries without increasing risks. This requires renewed commitments from governments and a review of their policies.
- If this can be done, then developing countries could attract private investment for new production technologies, and even provide ethically produced and sourced foods.
Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union Commission, PO Box 3243, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Policy and Research Division, Department for International Development, 1 Palace Street, London, SW1E 5HE, UK