AFRICA - Power supply constraints in Africa have spread to the western region of the continent and are impacting on poultry producers, in a region that is also suffering new outbreaks of avian influenza, writes Tawanda Karombo.
A new chick hatchery in the east African country of Rwanda has however revitalised poultry production in Rwanda and Uganda.
The West African countries of Nigeria and Cameroon are the latest countries on the continent to be hit by outbreaks of bird flu. And for Cameroon poultry producers, the situation has worsened after some of its markets banned imports from the country.
Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, both in the same West Africa region, are among African countries that have had to halt imports of table chickens from Cameroon. This has resulted in stockpiles of poultry products in Cameroon as producers are unable to market their products.
Nigeria is another regional country that is battling to effectively contain recurrent outbreaks of the disease. However, Nigeria’s poultry industry is battling power shortages which have spread from southern Africa.
"One of the challenges we face in this business is lack of power supply. When you slay your broilers/chicken after rearing them for 12 weeks and you don't have a ready individual or market to buy them, you cannot preserve them for long, because there is no light.
"Similarly, talking about storage, if… eggs are not properly stored in a cool environment, there shelve life is about six weeks. These eggs will get bad and we are at a loss," said, Favour Uzochukwu, a Nigerian poultry farmer.
Another Nigerian poultry producer based in Abuja, Lungpet Dung, said chicks and turkeys needed heat emitting bulbs to keep warm. He however, said that warming cannot be done “with firewood or charcoal as they would get burnt. The incubators also need electricity to operate in processing the eggs or even hatching them."
Malam Ahmed Shekarau, spokesperson for the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, said "power supply has been on the decline” in the country.
This was forcing the power utility to institute load-shedding, joining other African countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa that are grappling with power shortages that have taken a toll on poultry producers.
But in Rwanda and Uganda, poultry farmers have received a new lease of life following the opening of a new hatchery at Musance in June. Poultry farmers in the two countries said this would boost quality and quality of chicks that will now be readily available for the industry.
South African businessman Themba Mashinini invested in the Easy Hatch plant following investment studies in the Rwandan and East Africa poultry farming sector. The studies had shown that most farmers were crossing borders to get chicks for their poultry projects.
Easy Hatch has capacity to produce about 20,000 chicks every week and becomes the biggest hatchery in the country. The only other large scale hatchery in Rwanda is run by the Rwanda Agriculture Board.
“Due to an increase of poultry farmers, the national hatchery allowed us to order chicks abroad but the main challenge is that chicks reach us extremely tired while others died as a result of long journey. Unfortunately, we can’t ask for compensation for the dead chicks,” said Christine Nyiransabimana, a Kigali based poultry farmer.
Themba Mashinini, the managing director for Easy Hatch, was quoted by The New Times newspaper in Rwanda, saying “there is a big shortage of chicks in the country and also in neighbouring countries” hence the justification of investing in the plant.
Rwanda is ramping up its poultry production capacity to become a significant player in the East African region. 2014 statistics show that the African country produces more than 16,000 tonnes of poultry meat and about 6973 tons of eggs per year.
As other regions battle bird flue outbreaks, power shortages and see growth of investments in new poultry ventures, South Africa and its neighbour Zimbabwe are battling imports. South African poultry producers are still fighting an import deal inked by the government for chickens from the Unites States.
“Imports offer no benefit for local processing or production, where most of the industry’s 130,000 jobs are created. Importers are job stealers, while local producers are job creators. Currently, one big company is closing an abattoir in the North West Province,” the chief executive officer of the poultry producers association of South Africa, Kevin Lovell, said.
Zimbabwe is tightening poultry import restrictions to protect local growers. However, the local producers have said that they are heavily saddled with operational constraints and have been failing to meet demand and this has led to a rise in grey imports.
“Imports offer no cost benefit to local consumers. Although landed at ridiculously low dumped prices, importers admit imported chicken is actually sold for more than local chicken,” Mr Lovell said.