A lot of people would love to venture into agriculture profitably. But many shy away with excuses ranging from lack of enough farming land to the lack of knowledge of pursuing the lucrative venture. “Agribusiness is the future of this country’s economy,” according to Diamond Velji and Rita Velji, the Directors of Quality Meat Packers Limited (QMP).
The two, who happen to be husband and wife, are on a mission to pass on the knowledge that they have acquired over the years in agribusiness. Quality Meat Packers has grown over the years and represents Kenya at the annual Gulf Food exhibition, which focuses on modern agricultural technologies and utilizing renewable natural resources to enhance food production.
Clear plan and focus
To them, there is no limit “for those who do not limit themselves.” They believe that whether you are in an urban centre or rural area, all you need to do is, believe, focus, have a clear plan and follow your dream.
“It is possible provided you have the will and the knowledge on how you should do it,” Rita said during this interview. “Agribusinesses are being challenged to meet the globally increasing demand for food, fuel, and fibre, while balancing economic and environmental realities.”
Diamond says the sector is evolving from a local and regional model to a global structure, making it of increasing interest to corporations, public agencies, and society at large. “New technology is helping agribusiness increase efficiency and cut costs while avoiding wastage,” he says.
The couple has survived cut-throat competition in the industry to build one of East Africa’s biggest privately-owned slaughterhouses and meat processing plants.
It started as a simple meat retailer to a vertically integrated agribusiness with interests in the production and rearing of fresh beef, lamb and chicken. Now, they have built an empire that has now embarked on giving back to society.
In their targeted list of people are 250 farmers spread across the country. Quality Meat Packers Limited has walked with different farmers, including women. The farmers have undergone intensive training on how to rear a wide range of livestock. “Bottom line is being able to profit from their farms and agribusiness,” Rita says, with farmers making at least Ksh90,000 in profit per month.
Over the last five years, Rita says she has seen major transformations where many of those who started off as small-scale farmers have grown into the big league. Most of these farmers have been contracted by Quality Meat Packers Limited to supply meat.
Agribusiness is the future
Through QMP, Kenyan meat and meat products find themselves on tables and plates within Kenya and internationally, including in the Gulf Cooperative Countries and Africa. “We get our products from the lowest level at the farm. This is one of the biggest advantages of being one of our contracted farmers,” Diamond says. “You benefit directly from working with us.”
Their success, Diamond notes, is anchored on people. “If the people are happy, so are we,” the 71-year-old says. Quoting Africa Development Bank President Dr Akinwumi Adesina, he said, “Agriculture was Africa’s past, but agriculture as a business is Africa’s future.”
Quality Meat Packers Limited has expanded to overseas markets, with an eye on penetrating the bigger global market.
It is until you visit the processing plant in Ruai that you begin to understand the level of class and professionalism that they have invested in the business to ensure quality. There is a team of dedicated and well-seasoned researchers who continue to look into the latest technology being used across the world to help them keep up with international standards.
The firm has employed 400 people and thousands of others depend on it indirectly. “All we do is about the people, enhancing the quality and flavor of our products,” Diamond says.
Taste, Diamond says, is everything, as he took this reporter through the process of getting the best flavor and quality from the animals they receive. All this, within the international quality operating procedures approved by relevant government bodies like the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBs).
Quality Meat Packers is amongst the few ISO and Halal certified meat processors in Kenya. The firm has a government veterinary officer and five meat inspectors. The company produces a wide assortment of HALAL proteins including beef, lamb, goat, chicken and fish products.
The company also engages in is marination as per client specifications. “No one wants their meat to taste the same as that of their competitor,” Rita pointed out.
QMP produces different products, including dry aging, wet aging, and various forms of marination based on customer taste and profile. The dry-aging process involves the selection of suitable cuts of meat from high-grade beef and lamb carcasses. These are hung in an aging chamber for a period of 7 to 21 days, based on customer requests.
During this process, temperature and humidity are controlled to ensure the breakdown of enzymes in muscle fibre to tenderize the meat and make it more succulent. The wet aging process involves the creation of brine solution (cold water and proteinases). Proteinases come from plants such as papain (papaya) and bromelain (pineapple).
These are widely known and used natural tenderizers that help breakdown the fibres in meat, thus tenderizing the meat and making it more succulent. This process is done using specialized machinery, brine mixer, brine injector and tumbler.
In the past, this process would be done by Chefs and users at the kitchen, but now there is an increased demand for it to be done at the factory floor in line with recently released KEBS standards for marinated meat and poultry products.
Quality Meat Packers has automated most of its processes. The use of machinery and technology allows the company to control the consistency in finished products. “The key to everything we do is to offer a one-stop-shop solution and to provide customization for client specifications while maintaining the highest possible quality standards.”