Chicken farming set to enter a new era
Amon Uiseb, the owner of White Meat Training Solutions in Windhoek, wants to expand chicken farming in rural areas.
This follows the successful launch of Namboer Poultry two weeks ago, which aims to bring affordable chicken farming methods to the masses. With vast experience in chicken farming, Uiseb has taken it upon himself to train and equip interested farmers with an intensive training course due to start in December.
He is of the opinion that better trained and better equipped small scale farmers can take poultry farming to the highest level and contribute significantly to this ever-growing market.
Uiseb says the solution to Africa’s chicken crisis lies in upgrading agricultural systems overall. He lists low-cost, high-quality feed and research to increase efficiency and expand the range of feed sources as top priorities.
“Improvements in starter stock (chicks and broilers bred specifically for meat production) will require better breeding and extension programmes akin to those needed for crops. The most common threat to chickens is Newcastle disease, like the outbreak we are struggling with now in the Omusati village. But the frightening spectrum of new infectious diseases calls for more investment in livestock diseases in general and chicken diseases in particular,” he notes.
He adds that poor infrastructure (especially energy, transportation and water supply systems) is a major barrier to the expansion of chicken production, especially in rural areas. A lack of cold storage facilities forces farmers to keep feeding their chickens, instead of slaughtering and refrigerating them. They generally transport live chickens to markets, which raises logistical costs and increases concerns over disease transmission.
Namibia and the entire Africa continent is caught between pressure from imports in some countries and an inability to meet demand in others. Africa imports nearly 83% of the food it consumes and the continent has a real chicken and egg problem.
The current drought in many parts of the continent confirms that Africa’s chicken crisis is an expression of overall weaknesses in its agricultural system. If Africa cannot raise its grain production, it cannot expect do well in increasing its chicken output.
This also applies to Namibia who has to import an expected 140 000 tonnes of cereal this year to feed 700 000 inhabitants desperately in need of government’s drought aid food.
It is a complex problem. Producing chickens requires low-cost feed, such as corn. Yet, producing grain to meet human needs remains one of the continent’s most pressing challenges. Africa’s urban populations, for example, are growing faster than the continent can produce grain. This has contributed to Africa’s shift from being a net food exporter to being a net food importer.
The inability to ramp up grain production has affected Africa’s ability to feed its people, as well as its chicken. Its imports of grain, as well as chicken, have been rising as a result. Its import of poultry products is estimated at US$3 billion (N$42 billion) a year.
South Africa is the continent’s largest chicken producer. According to the South African Poultry Association, chicken imports from Brazil, the European Union and the US are destroying the domestic sector.
In July this year, SAPA also unsuccessfully tried to set aside a decision by Namibia’s minister of Trade and Industry that granted infant industry protection to the local broiler industry.
SAPA, along with five South African chicken producers (Astral Foods Limited, Supreme Poultry, Crown Chickens, Agri Poultry and Rainbow Farms), in July asked the High Court to review and set aside the quantitative restriction on poultry imports imposed by former trade and industry minister, Calle Schlettwein, as infant industry protection.
Namibia’s own Namib Poultry firm has repeatedly said it has the capacity to grow its own chickens at a far cheaper rate compared to most countries in the world. However, it is unable to do so due to cheap imports from SA and Brazil.
Population growth, urbanisation and changing diets have over the last 20 years shifted African meat consumption away from beef to pork and poultry. According to some estimates, chicken now accounts for nearly half of all meat consumed in Africa.
The supply of poultry has not kept up with demand, which is in turn pushing up prices. The prices of 1.5 kg chicken pieces and whole chickens hovers around N$75 in Windhoek. But in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania one will pay more than N$110 for the same chicken due to the high demand for chicken.