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Chicken everywhere but we can't get customers

Immaculate Ombibo with her poultry birds at her home in Ikonyero, Kakamega County. [Mumo Munuve/Standard]

Like the rest of the country, poultry farmers are also feeling the coronavirus pain and pressure.

Before the outbreak of the devastating virus, poultry farming was a lucrative venture especially in Western Kenya but now it is proving a depressing business.

A spot check by Smart Harvest shows that the torrid effect of the virus has forced many to close shop, venture into other businesses or scale down operations.

Majority have complained that other than the movement restrictions, they are also facing high cost of feeds, unavailability of vaccines and competition from cheap eggs and chicks imports from Uganda.

“We sell a fertilised egg of an improved Kienyeji chicken at Sh20 and Sh600 a tray. But in Uganda, the egg costs Sh7 and a tray at Sh210 or Sh230. We cannot compete with such low prices,” says Immaculate Imbobo, a poultry farmer from Ikonyero in Kakamega County.

Immaculate who has been in the business for the last five years, says before the outbreak of Covid-19, she would sell up to 50,000 day-old chicks per month but now she has more than 12,000 chicks with no one to buy them.

Massive losses

Immaculate has invested heavily in incubators with a hatching capacity of over 50,000 eggs a month and now all this is going down the drain.

Reports show that despite Uganda being on total lockdown, businessmen are sneaking cheap poultry products in Kenya through porous borders of Walanga, Cheptais and Kwachupu in Mt Elgon.

Julius Oketch, also a poultry farmer from Kakamega, is a worried man.

He says since the Ministry of Health closed hotels and eateries and placed a ban on weddings, birthday parties and reduced funeral attendees, this dealt a blow to his business.

“Hotels were my biggest customers and I used to supply over 500 birds to them every week. Over the weekends, I would have people flocking my farm to buy chicken for weddings and funerals but today, there is nobody to buy my chicken save for a few neighbours,” laments Mr Oketch.

David Mwima, a poultry farmer who runs an improved kienyeji chicken and a guinea fowl farm in Namanze village in Bungoma County has also been affected. His biggest headache is the high cost of feeds.

Wairimu Kariuki, National Chair Kenya Poultry Farmers Association says like all other sectors, poultry has been hit hard by the Covid-19 restrictions.

“When the eateries closed, most large scale producers lost a reliable market source for their poultry products. Now many of our members have chicken but nowhere to sell them,” Ms Kariuki says.

She also points out that farmers are not accessing quality feed because of cessation of movement in and out of Nairobi, which happens to be the key source of raw materials for poultry farmers. 

Way forward?

Bernard Kutwa a livestock production officer in Bumula says going forward, farmers should start own feed formulation to reduce costs of production.

He points out that the reason Kenyan poultry products are expensive is because feeds are also expensive compared to Uganda where they make their own feeds

Equally important, the government must protect the Kenyan farmer by stopping cheap imports from Uganda.

He also advises farmers to think out of the box and start marketing their produce online (Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter) to reach more customers.

They should also tap aggressively into the local market.

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