Scientists link the looming meat dearth to unchanging traditional cattle grazing trends, shrinking pasture land, conflicts over land which often pit livestock keepers against farmers and land grabbing by greedy investors who often hoard pastureland.

Other pitfalls include wildlife encroachments, shortages of drinking water and diseases. Well, Tanzania may have a large herd of cattle, but, paradoxically, there are districts or even whole regions where cow’s milk or beef is virtually unheard of.

A recent study has revealed that milk consumption has increased in the last ten years from 28 litres to 39 per person per year. Nutritionists believe that milk drinking culture, which thrived among most tribal settings in the past, is making a comeback.

Most milk is drawn from the predominantly short horn zebu cattle. However, an insignificant supply of milk emanates from various breeds of improved cattle which account for only three per cent of the hefty 22 million-strong herd.

Yes, Tanzanians drink too little milk and eat far less meat. A local veterinarian once quipped: “Residents in Lindi, Mtwara, Kigoma and some parts of Ruvuma can hardly tell the difference between a goat and a sheep or between a cow and a buffalo.”

Well, most residents in these regions do not keep livestock. And what the National Assembly heard last year is difficult to decipher. The august House was told that Tanzania exported more than 880 tonnes of meat worth 28.8bn/- last fiscal year and that business was booming.

The country also exported 126.2 tonnes of beef; 88.4 tonnes of mutton and 667 tonnes of goat meat. The lawmakers were also that seven new meat processing plants and 67 diary product factories would be built.

This effort is welcome but it is unthinkable that the House should be told of a paltry 28.8bn/-earned from meat exports a whole year. The nation’s herd of cattle is simply big enough to generate a much better income.

Perhaps the main pitfall in this business is the stark reality that the nation exports live cattle as well, instead of the more lucrative products alone. The main importers of live cattle (and products) are Comoro, Burundi, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Live cattle and products are also shipped to neighbouring countries with Kenya in the lead. The other canker is that this nation has virtually failed to improve the genetic quality of its herd of cattle. The short horn Zebu and Ankole remain dominant in the herd.