Guidance for small meat/fish processors

A book, Setting up and Running a Small Meat or Fish Processing Enterprise, provides a very basic overall manual on its subject matter, and is especially designed for absolute beginners.
But through its case studies it also provides insight into the challenges faced in developing countries, and the many opportunities in the meat/fish sectors. A book, Setting up and Running a Small Meat or Fish Processing Enterprise, provides a very basic overall manual on its subject matter, and is especially designed for absolute beginners.
But through its case studies it also provides insight into the challenges faced in developing countries, and the many opportunities in the meat/fish sectors.
The book is primarily written by the leading consultants of the well-known Midway Technology consulting group. It is published by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), which was established in 1983 under the Lom™    © Convention.
A large part of the book deals with hygiene and what would be HACCP-related issues – though developing world entrepreneurs would normally not consider seeking HACCP accreditation.
The book points out that meat and fish have been preserved by simple methods, principally drying, salting and smoking in developing countries for thousands of years. But in recent years, new non-traditional meat and fish products have entered developing markets mainly to meet demand from expatriates, tourists and growing affluent populations locally, which have been exposed to such foods through travel.
The authors note that “all the non-traditional manufacturing enterprises surveyed during the preparation of this book have been set up in recent years”.
“Some of these non-traditional products, such as bacon and low- moisture air-dried sausages, have been made in Europe for centuries using simple methods. The transfer of production from cold northern countries to tropical ACP (Africa Caribbean Pacific) countries requires adaptation of production and storage methods, mainly through the use of refrigeration.”
The book says: “Over the last 20 years we have witnessed a globalisation of eating habits.”
It says the market for non-traditional foods is constantly changing and can provide a great opportunity for entrepreneurs. 20 years ago for example, hamburgers and hotdogs were not commonly available in many ACP countries. Now they provide quick street food in most towns, generating a huge market for ground meat (mince) and sausages. More recently pizzas have appeared all over the world, generating markets for sliced ham, ground meat, grated cheese and salami.
Accordingly, most of the products described in the book are non-traditional.
The book finds that the main types of meat and fish products produced by small and medium scale enterprises in ACP countries are:

  • Fish products: dried and smoked fish, shrimp powder, fermented fish sauces, other sauces containing fish and shrimp, minced fish products (cakes and fingers), fried fish and fish pt™    ©s.
  • Meat products: fresh sausages, hamburgers, pt™    ©s, bacon, cooked hams, dried or smoked sausages (for instance, salami), dried meat, baked meat products (for instance pies and pizzas), and kebabs.
    The book says large export markets exist for frozen fish in some ACP countries, but they do tend to be met by larger companies. East Africa, for example, now exports 100,000t/year of fish and it is reported that the product range will soon be expanded to include fish sausages and fish burgers.
    However there have been a number of cases where smaller enterprises have accessed regional and international markets for processed fish.
    Opportunities for exporting processed meats are more limited due to concerns over the transfer of animal diseases.
    Among the “challenges” identified in operating in ACP countries are, for instance:
  • Some institutions (particularly governments) may be poor payers, and their slow responses may adversely affect cash flow.
  • Entrepreneurs must choose their consultants carefully as there have been many instances where ideas set out in feasibility studies have been stolen.
  • Practically all the meat processors surveyed in the preparation of the book had back-up power. “A meat processor without back-up power is doomed,” says the book.
  • For local markets, “only supply quantities that can be sold within their shelf life“.
  • Water quality is also often an issue – the quality of mains water may vary, particularly after rain.
  • Meat and fish waste in tropical countries presents a particular hazard as it attracts flies and vermin that may enter the processing plant and contaminate the product.
    The authors point out that in almost all ACP countries the basic raw materials – fish and meat – are bought locally by small and medium enterprises. Only one enterprise interviewed in its survey imported frozen pork from The Netherlands for reasons of quality and economy.
    It is well known that larger meat processing factories in developing countries import most of their requirements – so this indicates there is some incentive for local meat and fish producers to encourage small and medium processing enterprises.
    The problem of non-development of abattoirs in Africa is well known. In many cities in Africa, there are virtually no abattoir facilities and the problem of the cold chain is commonly solved by driving cattle into cities at night, slaughtering them in the cool of the night and selling that amount of meat via distributors during the day.
    Even where modern abattoir facilities have been set up (usually with concessionary finance) they are often used primitively.
    The book describes one such abattoir visited in which a lot of “non-staff” were present as owners followed their carcasses through the plant. All of these people were dirty and not properly clothed.
    Also, just before stunning, animals were wet around the belly and thighs due to the manner in which they were dragged to slaughter.
    Further, no care was taken during evisceration and skinning, guts were punctured and gut contents were seen on the carcasses. This resulted in a lot of washing which spread any contamination all over the carcasses. After quartering, no attempt was made to chill the meat despite the fact that chillers were available.
    Case studies are mostly of enterprises started by women. Given the profile of fish in developing countries, the book particularly emphasises different technologies for drying and smoking.
    The book contains many useful basic checklists and “tip sheets” for success, which any start-up could use. The bibliography provides additional and more advanced recipes and information.
    CTA: P O Box 380, 6700 AJ Wageningen, The Netherlands. Midway Technology Ltd: St Oswalds Barn, Clifford, Hay on Wye, Hereford, Britain.