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Farmers Struggle with Rising Feed Prices

by 5m Editor
27 June 2011, at 9:29am

UGANDA - Egg producers have experienced rapid feed price rises, which some blame on exports of maize to neighbouring countries, and they are being forced to cut back on production.

Walking down one of Kampala's busy suburbs, a reporter with East African Business Week could not help but notice with alarm that a lady on the sidewalk was selling a boiled egg to a taxi tout at 500 shillings (UGS; US$0.21).

This was a big jump in price up from UGS200 to UGS500. The vendor was asked why she was selling an egg at UGS500. Not too long ago, 21 US cents would get you a 600ml of bottled water.

Aisha Nabattu said: "The egg suppliers hiked the price so we had to follow suit if we are to sustain our businesses." Her claim was soon corroborated by a waitress at Smileys Fast Foods restaurant in Kampala.

Ms Nabattu said that the suppliers cited high poultry feed prices as the cause for the alarming increment in chicken products, eggs inclusive. The rising animal and poultry feed prices is hitting poultry processors and farmers in Uganda hard. A kilogramme of maize bran has gone up from UGS800 ($0.33) to UGS1800 ($0.75) and that also depends on where you are buying your feeds.

This has forced many farmers and feeds companies out of business in different parts of the country while others have resorted to selling off immature birds at very high prices.

Feeds dealers have attributed the price hike to the increase in the export of maize, especially to outh Sudan, and the cost of transport from the points of production has also shot up, brought on by the high fuel prices.

Rogers Kirize, a distributor of Ngondwe Feeds in Kawempe, five miles north of Kampala, explained: "Much of the maize is exported to the neighbouring countries making us to utilise the little left over, which cannot satisfy the Ugandan market."

The situation is creating fear among farmers as many cannot stand the current competition for the final products.

Mr Kirize revealed that the price for maize bran has shot from UGS500 ($0.20) to UGS1500 ($0.60) in the last three weeks, forcing the cost of a 70-kg bag of layer feed to rise from UGS50,000 ($22) to UGS75,000 ($34).

More of the publicly traded animal and poultry feeds companies – Formula feeds and Mutima poultry feeds among others – have all seen their stock prices swell in the recent times.

Mr Kirize says that even the expensive feeds are not available, which has caused some farmers to sell off immature birds to regain their capital.

Nalongo Betty Sekatte, a poultry farmer in Kawempe (five miles north of Kampala city) has opted to sell off her layers birds despite having started laying the eggs, reports East African Business Week.

She said: "I cannot afford sustaining the birds with this crisis because they have even reduced the eggs production per day."

Her birds have reduced egg production from five trays to three trays per day due to decrease in feeds to the birds.

However, she says that the poultry farmers in Kenya and Sudan are offering a better purchase price which has led to exportation of maize to those areas for a better price.

She said: "Since feeding constitutes three-quarters of the poultry production costs, the price of feeds is the biggest factor in determining its profitability."

Her income has dwindled and she is considering abandoning her long-time business.

Salongo Kakeeto, a director with Mutima Poultry Feeds in Nakulongo, a city suburb (three miles south of Kampala city), said the increment in the price of maize bran, which is the main ingredient for poultry feeds is caused by the exportation of maize to Sudan.

He said: "The situation will only normalize with the harvesting season while government comes in to ban the exportation of maize without satisfying the local market."

Isaac Nayema, a poultry feed dealer in Kisenyi, says that buyers have reduced citing the unaffordable feeds prices.

He said: "We try explaining to the farmers about the quandary but efforts have yielded nothing as the number of customers decline day by day."

William Sekajja, a poultry farmer in Matugga (10 miles north of Kampala), says while the price hike is partly acceptable, his concern is aroused by the fake poultry feeds on the market.

He said: "Instead of mixing pure ground silver minnow fish, some dealers grind fish fins, bones and scales while others have resorted to adding sorghum flour that have no nutrient value for the chickens."

He notes that poor feed ingredients greatly affect egg production capacity of layers. Poultry farmers say the increase does not correspond with the wholesale or supply price of the final products, especially eggs, whose price has stabilized between UGS300 ($0.10) and UGS400 ($0.15) each.

The East African Business Week report adds that the high price of maize bran threatens not only the poultry industry but also the pig business as maize bran is also the main ingredient in pig feeds.