Kenya Turns to Uganda for Eggs Due to Feed Costs

KENYA - High production costs have seen many Kenyans cross the borders to buy cheaper eggs from Uganda for consumption and re-sale in Kenya.
calendar icon 28 December 2011
clock icon 6 minute read

Traders in Busia and Malaba towns along the Kenya-Uganda border are among those who have set their eyes on Uganda to boost business, according to

The cost of poultry feeds have hit the roof forcing many farmers interested in the egg business to go hunting for cheaper eggs.

Traders in Busia and Malaba towns along the Kenya-Uganda border are among those who have set their eyes on Uganda to boost business.

The cost of poultry feeds have hit the roof forcing many farmers interested in the egg business to go hunting for cheaper eggs.

In Kenya, layers mash goes for Sh 3,150 for a 70- kilogramme bag, Kienyeji mash retails at Sh1,800 per 70 kilogramme and chick mash goes for Sh3,300 for a 70 kilogramme sack.

Maize husks are sold at Sh1,500 per 50-kilogramme sack and remains from dagaa fish (omena) that is available in various fish markets goes for an average of Sh50 per kilogramme in most markets in Kenya.

In Uganda, besides remains of omena and maize which are available in plenty, the cost of chicken feeds are lower than in Kenya.

"Our government has also subsidised the cost of poultry drugs and vaccine to encourage more small-scale farmers to engage in poultry production," said Mr John Mugisha, a trader in Uganda, who has been in the eggs business for the last six years.

Mr Mugisha says unlike in Kenya, ugali (maize meal) is not a staple food in Uganda and that is why most of the grain that feeds families across the border comes from the neighbouring country, Matoke (mashed bananas) is Ugandans staple food.

"Remains from maize and cassavas are easily available due to high production of the two crops compared to Kenya. This is used to feed chicks. This means one can make feeds at the farm level and does not necessarily need to go for the processed product," he says.

He adds that the cotton seed cake, sunflower and ground nut cake and waste from rice and omena are nutritious poultry feeds.

"A Kenyan trader who sells a tray of eggs at between Sh280 and Sh300 will lose buyers who purchase a similar quantity at between Sh190 and Sh220 from Uganda," says Mr Mugisha.

The attractive offers in Uganda have lured Kenyans especially those along the Kenya-Uganda border to cross over for the exotic eggs due to the affordable costs.

But eggs from local indigenous hens that retail at Sh15 per egg compared to Sh12 for ones from exotic chicken are in high demand in both countries. This is due to the low supply caused by the reduced number of farmers keeping such breeds. Besides, many people prefer the eggs from the indigenous hen, saying they are more delicious than the ones from exotic hens.

The opening up of the East African Community (EAC) market opportunities has eased movement of people from either country who are keen to tap into business across the border.

Traders from Uganda selling their eggs in Kenya have exposed their local counterparts to cut-throat competition and discouraged them from heavily investing in exotic breeds of layers chicken, for commercial purposes.

"You cannot compete with a trader with eggs from Uganda. He will be selling much cheaper than the local traders because production costs there are much less than what we incur here," said Mr Ambrose Omoit, a trader at Malaba town along the Kenya-Uganda border.

He adds: "Apart from harassment from revenue collectors from both countries who are keen to protect their own traders, opening up the borders for business to thrive is a noble idea."

The fluctuating shilling against the US dollar and the unpredictable fuel costs have left traders with little opportunity to realise meaningful profit.

Mr Godrin Ochieng' buys eggs from Tororo, Mbale, Jinja and Kampala. He has teamed up with four other traders to cut transport costs and they place orders for up to 1,500 crates at once.

He says some traders, however get eggs from Moi Bridge in Trans Nzoia County and in some parts of Central Province. He added that many traders started importing eggs in large quantities in April last year when the country began experiencing a shortage of maize, which forced even the price of eggs to rise. The depreciating shilling against the dollar also adversely affected the cost of goods locally prompting traders to shift to other countries where the deal is better.

Besides, he discloses that a trader must have an import certificate that goes for Sh300 per year. It must be presented to a Public Health Officer at the border point before one's consignment is allowed into the country. Mr Thomas Tarus who sells eggs and chicken at Maili Tisa in Uasin Gishu County says: "Poultry production costs in Kenya have always been steep, forcing many traders to only concentrate on eggs. The government should regulate the prices of poultry feeds to cushion small traders."

Busia District Poultry officer Rose Kahai admits that producing eggs from the hybrid layers is expensive in Kenya compared to Uganda. "In Kenya, it costs as much as Sh20 to produce an egg if the chickens are fed to the required standards yet a buyer wants to take it home at the prevailing market rates which leaves him with a loss," she says.

Ms Kahai says this explains why many small scale traders keep their poultry under the free range system and rarely vaccinate them against diseases.

"The costs will go up to a level that the traders will no longer be engaging in a sustainable venture unless they are keeping the birds for their immediate family's consumption and production cost is not an issue as such," she said.

The traders also say the main hitch they face in the business is breakages especially if the eggs are not carried properly or if the hens were not well fed.

"They will produce weak eggs that can easily break. As a result, one must be careful when transporting the eggs lest he will have thrown his money into the latrine," he says.

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