Eggs being sold at Wangige Market in Kiambu County. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

With the continuous growth of our population, the demand for eggs is expected to increase just like with other foodstuffs. With this growth in population, we need to produce more and more food, keep more laying pullets on the farms and feed them adequately.

The high nutritional value of eggs, their availability and their long-lasting shelf life are the main reasons why the local growth in eggs is gaining recognition.

Currently, the most important raw materials sources for animal feed are maize, wheat, soya bean meal, fish meal and sunflower cakes. But they all have their limitations in our country; we are deficient in maize production, we don't grow soya bean, fish meal is a dwindling product due to overfishing in our lakes and we are rarely growing enough sunflower these days. This growing scarcity of resources has led to a significant increase in feed prices, with prices being more than doubled during the last one year alone. How are farmers going to create new markets to stay afloat?

Be small and smart

Most business advisors always recommend producers to start small and grow big to win in this volatile and sometimes risky market. I say you don't have to be big to be successful, but you can be small and smart and penetrate the niche market. This can be done by packing your eggs based on weight grades, egg yolk colour, shell colour and quality. Aim to cut out the middlemen.

Value-added opportunities

Once processed, eggs are easier to preserve, transport and store. Fresh eggs are processed into liquid whole eggs, dried whole, liquid yolk, and dried yolk powder, which are used in confectionery and pasta production and in meat products like ham, bacon, and sausages. The process involves pasteurization, a method that involves heating at 74 degrees centigrade, for a specific period and followed by rapid cooling and then a drying process using specialised technology. The fresh eggs can also be cooked into scrambles, sandwich fillings, egg rolls and hard-boiled eggs and directly sold to quick-service restaurants and fast-food eateries.

Use of a mark of Quality

Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) has long been used in Kenya in the food industry as a government body assigned to enforce standards and promote quality in virtually all products in the food industry. To obtain a certificate of good standing, it would be good for a farmer to undergo an inspection by KBS and be issued with a compliance certificate and be allowed to use the Kebs logo on your labels as per the guiding regulations. No supplier or facility can be forced to undergo an inspection by Kebs but for those that opt to do it, the gesture will make it easier for consumers to identify quality suppliers and allow them to make their purchasing decisions accordingly.

Contract farming for big firms

There is a new concept of farming which is powerful and empowering to the new farmers called contract farming. The farmers don't have to look for the market, that frees them of time to concentrate on growing and producing eggs for sale to these big boys. It has been so successful in poultry meat production, and it's now being tried in the egg industry. The layer farmer is supplied with feeds and the integrator buys eggs for sale to a ready and established market.

Join egg producers' cooperatives

There are many egg producers out there who want to expand and grow their businesses to the next level but cannot because of a lack of enough financial support or land. The answer lies in bringing such individuals who share similar visions into strong cooperative or Sacco movements. The concept is very simple, come together as a group, register, and contribute equal resources, buy, or rent land, build infrastructure, and share equally the profits. As a group, it is much more feasible to ask for government support for increased egg consumption that will improve the national nutrition supply in school or prison feeding schemes and other government programmes.