Innscor Africa Ltd says it is planning to invest in excess of US$8 million for the restocking of its chicken-rearing subsidiary Irvine's in the aftermath of the recent avian flu outbreak outbreak at the company's Lanark Farm.
The country is experiencing an acute shortage of eggs as a result of the outbreak near Harare which has seen the price of eggs increasing by almost double.
Irvine's was affected by the outbreak which resulted in the company culling 835 000 chickens, mostly layers and broiler breeders, between June and August 2017.
Innscor financial director Godfrey Gwainda told businessdigest this week that the restocking exercise will take between six to 12 months to see Irvine's back to its peak production level of over a million chicks per week and 1,5 million dozens table eggs per month. Irvine's will implement the restocking programme in December at the close of the quarantine period imposed by government's veterinary department.
Gwainda said at its peak Irvine's produced 1,5 million dozens table eggs per month but this has now been reduced by 45%, while broiler day-old chicks were now down by 50% due to the avian flue.
"Broiler day-old chicks' grandparents are imported from Europe, these only start producing fertile eggs after 25 weeks, we hatch the eggs to produce the parents for broilers. The parents are also reared at the Lanark Farm and start producing fertile eggs after another 22 to 25 weeks. The cycle to replace broilers is therefore anywhere between 55 to 60 weeks, if the whole chain is pursued," he said
By importing fertile eggs into the country, he said, the cycle is reduced to under three weeks.
Meanwhile, government gazetted a statutory instrument that allows for importation of eggs for hatching duty free on a maximum of 852 000 eggs per week. The Statutory Instrument 124 of 2017 suspends duty on fertilised poultry eggs for hatching that are imported by breeders for a period of six months with effect from August 1 2017.
Although the statutory instrument removes duty on the importation of eggs' Gwainda said they will also continue importing the breeding stock, as part of the restocking programme, with the second option being to import parent day-old chicks.
However, on the latter, he said it is difficult to secure enough quantities for the country's needs, adding that Irvine's needs about 44 million broiler fertile eggs per year and roughly 280 000 parents per year. "While importing fertile eggs is a quick solution to the avian flu induced shortages, long-term, the country should produce its own fertile eggs, because there is risk that the country supplying those eggs to Zimbabwe can switch-off supplies should they experience increased demand in the domestic market," Gwainda said. The farm is currently undergoing a sanitation process in readiness for restocking with full production expected in the second half of the current financial year.