Concerns that must be addressed before Uganda ban on poultry is lifted

Chicken hawkers spotted along Nakuru streets on December 24, 2016.The chicken being sold at between sh600- sh1, 000..PHOTO:MOSES KIPSANG

On February 10, poultry stakeholders appealed to the government not to lift the importation ban on Uganda poultry and its products.

The ban had been put in place after dead wild birds tested positive for the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).
The press statement read by Kenya Poultry Farmers Association (KEPOFA) chair Wairimu Kariuki, raised a number of concerns.

Key among them was the possible detrimental and disastrous effect that would be experienced in Kenya if the ban was lifted without due processes being taken to ensure that Uganda is totally free of the HPAI.

The following are the concerns tabled: 
• World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and World health Organistion (WHO) should be permitted to give the Avian Influenza disease status before lifting of the ban.
• Any bird flu outbreak within Kenya would lead to massive poultry deaths, due to the poultry population having no natural immunity against the disease and neither having ever been vaccinated for its prevention.
• Over 60 per cent of animal feeds manufactured in Kenya are for poultry and Avian Influenza would necessitate culling/slaughter of poultry and therefore subsequent closing of a number of milling operations.

Drastically reduced poultry would also disrupt the businesses and livelihoods of a number of players for instance feed raw material suppliers, poultry farmers, charcoal dealers and even jua kali partisans involved in fabrication of poultry equipments.
• The ban lifting would immediately flood Kenya with products which have been held in stock since its effective date. This increases chances of disease incursion into the country.
• The bird flu scare in September 2005, which by then had not even affected any country in Africa, was estimated to have cost independent farmers and a few businesses in the tune of Sh2.3 billion. Thus, a confirmed outbreak in Kenya would be disastrous!

• While Democratic Republic of Congo and some members of the East African Community for instance Tanzania, Rwanda and South Sudan, banned poultry its products import into their countries from Uganda, none of them has intuited lifting the ban.
The stakeholders confirmed the ability of the Kenyan poultry industry in providing sufficient poultry and poultry products to the Kenyan population with locally hatched, produced and processed poultry products. Poultry farming in Kenya is a major economic activity for both subsistence and commercial purposes, handled by about 65 per cent of the households.

Kenya Poultry Breeders Association estimates indicate that there are approximately — 45 million indigenous chicken in the country. Worth mentioning also is the fact that the number of farmers keeping and operating hatcheries for indigenous (kienyeji) chicken, as agri-business outfits, has been on the increase.

This has created thousands of employment opportunities for the common mwananchi. On this backdrop, the government should ensure that due diligence is followed before the ban is lifted to totally minimise chances of disease introduction into the country.

Going forward, the State and the poultry stakeholders must work together for betterment of the sector by looking at technical, regulatory and commercial aspects of the industry. Exposure to external pressure must be evaluated and resisted to prevent negative impact on the poultry industry and affiliated businesses.

The writer is a veterinary surgeon and runs Nature Kuku, a farm in Naivasha that produces kuku kienyeji breed and trains small holder farmers on rearing them. You can reach him on [email protected]