Zimbabwe: Poultry Farmers Feel the Pinch

ZIMBABWE'S poultry industry, which appeared to be on a recovery path following challenges posed by the outbreak of the Avian Influenza in 2017, is facing viability challenges, it has been revealed.

Poultry farmers who spoke to Standardbusiness last week said the cost of feed, chicks and vaccines was now beyond the reach of many farmers.

"The major factor is the wanton increases of feed and chicks by the major suppliers without any communication on the justification of the increases.

"The same applies to the veterinary suppliers also of vaccines, medicines and so on," Irene Musarurwa, a Bulawayo-based poultry farmer, said.

"There is lack of support for the poultry industry from government or financial institutions as well as lack of financial muscle to build capacity to compete

against major suppliers."

Another farmer, Rehanah Mohamed said the biggest challenges facing farmers were high costs of chicks, feed, medication, electricity and water cuts as well as a

decrease in consumer buying power.

The cost of producing 100 broiler chicken, according to a basic feed plan from Novatek Animal Feeds Zimbabwe, can run up to $1 999 excluding labour, bedding, medications, heating, water and electricity expenses.

For instance, 100 broiler chicks cost about $290, a 50kg bag of starter feed cost $252, a 100kg bag of grower cost $484, a 200kg bag of finisher costs $928,

one packet of vitamin $35 and two packets of disinfectant costs $10.

This means, to produce a bird, one would require $19,99, excluding other costs like labour.

A fully dressed chicken costs between $30 and $40, a price which many consumers cannot afford.

Chicken Raisers' Association chairman Nkosinathi Ndiweni said the future of the poultry sector was bleak.

"The poultry sector like any another sector in the economy has been negatively affected by various challenges," he said.

"Previously, it was mostly affecting small players but now it cuts across and many players have been rendered dormant as they cannot afford to sustain the

operations.

"The cost of feed is now beyond the reach of many. Now you need alternative sources of electricity as Zesa is no longer a reliable source."

Ndiweni said it was now difficult to set competitive prices for their products.

In its latest update, the Livestock and Meat Advisory Council (Lmac) noted that sales of day-old chicks had slowed down, and prices were expected to rise in

the near future on the back of ever-increasing costs of feeds driven by the unstable foreign currency exchange rate.

"However, despite the increasing costs, the poultry meat and egg markets have started to show signs of resistance and is forecast to shrink," Lmac said.

The Zimbabwe Poultry Association (ZPA) noted, in its first quarter report, that the prices of raw materials procured in the first quarter of 2019 continued to

surge.

Prices of many products had increased by more than 30% compared to prices in the fourth quarter, particularly all proteins (soya, sunflower, cotton, fish

meal), wheat bran, methionine and lysine.

In contrast, average prices of poultry feeds in the first quarter increased by 16% compared to fourth quarter prices.

The notable exception was the price of layer rearing feed, which increased by 43% reflecting the increased demand from point of lay producers.

ZPA said the first quarter witnessed a marked reduction in demand and supply due to the increases in the cost of feed and reduced consumer buying power.

"These twin forces are expected to persist into the second quarter. As a consequence of reduced maize stock levels, the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) has stopped

selling subsidised maize to poultry producers for on-farm mixing and removed subsidies on maize procured by feed manufacturers," ZPA said.

Due to the drought, ZPA said the country will have to depend on expensive imported soyabean meal and maize for the rest of the year.

"All these factors will translate into increased costs of poultry production. On the other hand, wages have not yet adjusted at the same rate," it said.

ZPA estimated that total broiler meat production in the first quarter was 10,203mt per month, being 9% lower than that of the first quarter.

It said large-scale meat production in the first quarter of this year declined by 11% compared to the fourth quarter of 2018, whereas small-scale production is

estimated to have declined by 22%.

In the period under review, broiler day-old chick production averaged 6,5 million per month, 9% lower than what was achieved in the same period last year.

Farmers said if feed was available at an affordable price, poultry farming could be profitable, again.

As a way forward, farmers urged the government to address there economic problems, lest the sector collapses.

Small scale farmers said there was need for capacity enhancement for producers to close ranks and package the chicken for export market as well as engaging

ZimTrade to obtain space in export processing zones and build abattoirs for indigenous farmers.

They also asked government to introduce new farming methods, poultry production training courses and avail land food poultry production as most farmers were

operating from garages and small spaces.

"There is need to introduce price controls on those suppliers or make GMB the preferred supplier and that they offer terms of payment to farmers," Musarurwa said.

"Engagement with all relevant ministries, suppliers is long overdue to vent out these issues."

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