Eggs being sold at Wangige Market in Kiambu County. (Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard)

Eggs prices at Wangige market, one of the largest egg markets in East Africa, were starting to pick up few weeks ago as traders attest.

Then kapput... They have started to drop again as Smart Harvest discovered on a visit on Thursday.

This follows the announcement that Uganda will resume exporting eggs to Kenya.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was in Kenya for a two-day State visit. During the visit, and after trade talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta, Museveni declared Uganda would continue exporting eggs to Kenya in the spirit of East African Community. 

This was a shocker to poultry farmers at Wangige, who are just recovering from losses after selling eggs for as low as Sh150 per tray in the past few months following competition from cheap supplies from Uganda. They are now worried about what will happen next.

Smart Harvest toured the market and found poultry farmers seething with rage following the announcement.

“Much as those regional relations matter, sometimes the government should put the interests of small scale traders first,” Ms Anne Wangare, a trader, complained.

Starting to stabilise

Ms Wangare said the prices of eggs had just started to stabilise after the influx of eggs from Uganda stopped. A tray of eggs was trading at Sh250.

However, on Thursday morning, the cost per tray dropped by Sh10. At the close of business same day, it had hit Sh220. Ms Wangare has 2,500 layers and supplies 400 trays of eggs to the market - 200 on Mondays and 200 on Thursdays. Another farmer Dunson Macharia said poultry business was dependable and predicatable in the past 10 years he has been in poultry business. But now, things are shaky, he says.

“Since eggs from Uganda started flooding the market, many poultry farmers have had to close shop because they cannot compete. Some of us are stuck in this business because we are servicing loans,” said Macharia from Kahuho in Limuru.

He went on: “Things were bad in the past few months. But they had started to pick up. But for the government to officially allow Ugandan eggs into the county is a clear message for us to abandon poultry business.”

With the high cost of production and unstable market, Macharia has had to dispose off some of his layers, reducing his initial egg production from 80 to 50 trays.

“As you can see, our poultry business is getting tougher. It means we must look for alternatives…” Macharia said.

 Urgent matter

Following the shift in prices, egg traders are now planning for a meeting to chart the way forward.

 “I have already called a meeting and all poultry farmers across the county are meeting on Tuesday next week to address the issue,” says Samuel Ndonye Ndung’u, chairman of the Kabete Poultry Farmers Sacco.

 He said this is a big blow to poultry farmers. “We cannot keep quiet and see our industry die. We will go down fighting,” he vowed.

He said they also plan to meet the President to discuss the matter. If not resolved, they plan to stage protests until their woes are addressed.

Ms Wairimu Kariuki, the chairperson of the Kenya Poultry Farmers Association also weighed in on the matter

“This cannot be... we were starting to breath a sigh of relief after imports from Uganda reduced. I mean prices had started to stabilise,” she pointed out.

Kariuki questioned the government’s goal in the Big Four on food security and need to protect interests of smallholder farmers.

Ms Wairimu said right now most of the farmers have disposed their layers following recent poor prices and soon there’s going to be a deficit.

She said: “The government should have consulted to know the position on the ground before the declaration was made.”

She said farmers need to be protected  from cheap imports. Meanwhile, farmers have complained that they cannot match up to Ugandan poultry farmers because of various factor.

First, feeds are quite expensive in Kenya going for between Sh2,700-3,000, while Ugandan farmers enjoy subsidies including lower input costs on feeds, making their production costs lower.

Recently in a local daily, Agriculture Chief Administrative Secretary Andrew Tuimur said the cost of production has been the biggest problem in Kenya, making egg products from Kenya uncompetitive.

Poultry feeds

In 2013, the cost of production in Kenya increased following the imposition of a 16 per cent value added tax on poultry feeds.

Tuimur justified the egg imports from Uganda, saying it is part of the free trade in the East African Community, and therefore Kenya imports eggs from Uganda and South Africa whenever there is a shortage.

He said in 2017, the government put a ban on egg imports due to an outbreak of Avina flu, and this was partly lifted. Another hurdle Kenyan farmers face is too many taxes. When they bring eggs, they pay for each tray at Sh2, and those buying equally pay Sh1. And, for vehicles to entering the market, vans pay Sh50, while lorries Sh100.

“Some of these double taxing is too much. The county governments need to waive them,” a trader at Wangige complained.

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