Shortage Of Chicken In Malawi16 July 2004
MALAWI - The shortage of chicken on the market is because producers have been exporting the product to neighbouring countries, industry captains have confirmed.
Poultry Industry Association of Malawi (Piam) chairman Alex Stewart said recently producers are exporting dressed chicken to Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia through borders.
But Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito has condemned the producers for exporting at a time when they cannot meet the local demand. Kapito has since demanded that government remove restrictions on chicken imports to allow for more chicken products into the country.
"If Malawian producers are exporting, why can't other countries export into Malawi as well? Why should Malawian consumers be limited to local poultry products even during a shortage?" queried Kapito.
But Stewart said although the exports have brought a shortage of the birds, the development will help local producers to expand their businesses.
"We are happy that other countries want our products because it means that we are now capable of competing on the international market," said the Piam chief.
Apart from the exports, said Stewart, the chicken business has become very popular among the country's small scale entrepreneurs.
Business Review investigations in major hatcheries last week showed that orders for day old chicks are fully booked up to November-meaning that one may not buy the chicks from the producers before then.
Stewart said the industry is reacting positively to the high demand by planning to increase production.
Asked to comment on fears that producers could use the demand and supply forces to hike prices, Stewart dismissed the concerns.
He said by expanding, the industry wants to avoid a serious shortage and protect consumers from paying more.
Stewart, who is also managing director for Charles Stewart Day Old Chicks-one of the major chicken producers, said his company has already bought a new incubator at the cost of K20 million.
"This incubator is in Dubai on its way to Malawi. We expect this investment to boost production by 55 percent by December," he said.
Stewart said the association is encouraging other major producers like Central Poultry to increase out put in order to meet the growing demand.
The demand for chicken products has continued to rise over the years, driven by consumer habits and improvements in the quality of the products.
Stewart said the demand has caught the industry unaware as they usually expect it to pick up from September or October.
Malawi's poultry industry is currently enjoying a boom after it almost collapsed between 1999 and 2001 when cheap eggs and chicken from South Africa and Zimbabwe flooded the market, making it hard for local producers to compete.
To save the industry, government introduced an import licencing scheme in 2001 aimed at restricting the amount of poultry products into the country.
Since then, the industry has been growing by about 10 percent on average per year, according to Piam.
Consumers have been hoping that the industry's gains would trickle down to them but nothing of the sort has happened.
Ministry of Trade and Private Sector Development officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.
But former Commerce, Trade and Industry minister Sam Mpasu said in April this year government cannot lift temporary import bans as doing so could kill what he called the young and fragile local poultry industry.
Source: eFeedLink - 15th July 2004