Chicken farming is a ‘low-hanging fruit’, says trade forum analyst
Windhoek – Chicken farming is a “low-hanging fruit” for Namibia to create employment in the short and medium term.
“This is not the time to learn, this is the time to implement,” says Maria Lisa Immanuel, senior trade and investment policy analyst of the Namibia Trade Forum. Immanuel made this statement during the official launch of the multi-million Namboer Poultry initiative last week in Windhoek, saying hard times are not coming, they are with us.
In tough times like these, policymakers should focus and prioritise those “low-hanging fruit” initiatives, which make economic sense and have great potential to create employment. One such initiative is to stimulate poultry production in the country.
Poultry farming comes with untapped business opportunities carrying great potential to create employment across the entire value chain and consequently drive rural industrialisation. The poultry industry forms an integral part of the agro-processing sector in Namibia. This sector offers significant potential to increase value addition, to create jobs, income and export opportunities to enhance food security and reduce dependence on imports and hence, has been prioritised by government through various policy initiatives.
Poultry production is in its infancy in Namibia. Until 2012, Namibia imported all its poultry products. Government under the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development (MITSMED) decided to protect the industry through quantitative restriction measures using the Import and Export Act, No. 30 of 1994. The quantitative restriction gives room for new poultry production initiatives to set themselves up without major threats from imports. Namibia’s total demand for poultry products per month is estimated between 3 000 and 3 500 tonnes.
The Namib Poultry Industry (NPI), presently the only broiler company in Namibia, is able to supply the domestic market with about 1 800 tonnes per month, about 50% of domestic demand. The quantitative restriction measures allow maximum importation of 1 500 tonnes per month. The protection had a positive impact in the poultry industry in the sense that many people see great opportunities to stimulate production and supply the domestic market.
“Opportunities in this industry are at two levels. The first level is to enter into broiler production. This requires large investments as it is capital intensive. Bio-safety systems and advanced infrastructure are a must. Therefore, a highly skilled labour force is crucial to the successful operation of the business. Feed cost takes up to 60% of total production cost or more. Unfortunately, Namibia is a net importer of feed. Poultry feed production could therefore also be a positive spin-off in this industry. Water is also a big component of broiler production and due to shortage of water in and around Windhoek, future production is viable in areas like Otavi, ‘Ovamboland’, Rundu and Katima Mulilo. Large productions also have an advantage of producing for neighbouring markets such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, DR Congo, etc. Namibia has an advantage in the logistics hub connecting to all these markets,” says Immanuel.
“There is a high demand for indigenous chicken in Namibia. Small-scale poultry farming has the potential to lead rural industrialisation in the regions, especially at such times when the effects of drought have threatened food security at house and national level. Most of the rural households in Namibia have always traditionally kept chickens for own consumption. This ‘indigenous knowledge’ factor is the comparative advantage government should take advantage of by planning targeted programmes to make this a reality. Women and youth in rural areas stand to benefit most in indigenous poultry farming. A business model which allows the youth to take over the running of business systems while the women focus on production could be viable. Indigenous chicken farming is less capital intensive, with low rate of disease outbreak as the breed is adaptable to the environmental conditions. They also require flexible feeding ratios and feed is easily sourced as it can be anything from mahangu to rice, insects and maize by-products, etc. It requires less veterinary services and infrastructure is simple and cost effective. Support should be in the form of availing start-up inputs as well as training in poultry management and husbandry,” she notes.