Goat meat is silently slipping away from Kenyans' dining tables as the prices surge. Once a culinary staple celebrated for its distinctive flavour and cultural significance, fewer and fewer families can now afford the meat.
Mohammed Sora, who has sold goats at Kiamaiko Market in Nairobi for decades, attributes the rising cost to low supply.
He says prolonged drought has led to livestock losses and the few goat farmers who have stock are reluctant to sell locally because the export market fetches better prices.
“Many people lost their goats to famine, and those who still have them prefer the export market because they can sell at once, in bulk. Right now, we are buying one goat for Sh10,000 to Sh14,000, and it's for resale. This is a sharp increase from Sh5,000 to Sh7,000 a few months ago. The high prices have really affected our business,” he says.
Ghulam Nabi who runs Ibrahim’s Butchery in Nairobi, says each day, the price of goat meat seems to rise, as buyers from the Middle East, DRC, Sudan and Egypt snap up the few goats available in Kenya.
“In the international market, goat meat is being bought in dollars, and the exchange rate is at a staggering Sh150,” says Mr Nabi.
He says they now have to compete with exporters, and then pass the costs to consumers.
"That's why goat meat in butcheries now costs Sh850 to Sh900 a kilo," he says, "and the quantities that customers are accustomed to are becoming increasingly hard to obtain. I have had to buy like 20 goats at once, but most times, they deliver just a fraction of that, sometimes as few as two goats.
Wallace Wanjohi, an exporter to Dubai says part of the shortage is attributed to the ban of goats from some North Eastern regions, which had been hit by Foot and Mouth disease.
"Now we are relying on goats from Narok, which is a small market. It's hard to find many farmers in Narok with over 1,000 goats at once, yet sometimes you get such huge orders. We buy from the slaughterhouses at Sh460 a kilo. Then sell it in Dubai for Sh933 ($6.2) a kilo," he says.
The high prices in the local market and low supply have affected exporters negatively.
Doreen Gacheri, founder of Moissanite, another firm that exports meat to Gulf countries says the demand is exceptionally high, and most exporters are struggling to keep up.
"Just a year ago, during this same period, we used to buy goat meat for Sh450 per kilo. However, the current price has surged to Sh680 per kilo, and this has a direct impact on our export business," she says.
"In light of the increased costs, we've had to adjust our export prices to $6.5 per kilo (Sh980) to maintain competitiveness in the export market," she adds.
However, she is hopeful that with the current rains, the livestock industry will recover, or else their export business stares at a bleak future.
Moses Mbugua, who owns a butchery in Nairobi's Pipeline, says not too long ago, he could buy the meat for Sh560 a kilo, but not any more, and that many Kenyans, once loyal to goat meat, may begin to reconsider their options.
"We are seeing some opt for beef or pork,” says Mr Mbugua.
Sheila Wawire, who sells goat meat in a restaurant, says she has had to reduce servings.
"You have to either reduce portion sizes or increase prices on all goat meat dishes. Another option is to remove goat from the menu,” she says.