Early last year, a survey commissioned by Kakamega County established that the annual demand for eggs in the region stood at 170 million against a supply of about 35 million.
This demand was attributed to a growing population and urbanisation, factors that promote diversification of diet. The gap in supply, it was found, is mainly bridged by imports from Uganda.
Kenya currently produces about 1.2 billion eggs annually against potential domestic demand of six billion eggs, if individual consumption reaches World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein, essential vitamins and minerals, and have the power to feed the world’s growing population affordably.
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But imports are threatening to dampen local poultry farmers’ enthusiasm for egg production.
Peter Thuku has moved his business to Kisii town from Nakuru, which he said is facing a slump in egg production.
“Nakuru now gets most of its eggs from Uganda, where they are cheaper. Local farmers are struggling to sustain production as chicken feed has become very expensive, driving up the costs of eggs,” he said.
“While a tray of Ugandan eggs costs about Sh265, eggs produced locally can cost up to Sh300.”
The irony is that Kenya is a major exporter of chicks to Uganda. We also export the trays our neighbours use to package the eggs they bring back into the local market.
Demand for eggs in Kisii, Mr Thuku said, is high, and in a good week, he can sell the 1,200 trays he imports.
“Interestingly, when the price of eggs is high, demand seems to be very high. This would be an even more profitable venture if it were it not for the high costs of chicken feed.”
Peter Nyaribo, who lives in Nyamira County, said he abandoned poultry farming after the Government introduced a 16 per cent value added tax on all animal feed.
“The venture became a liability as chicken feed accounts for about 80 per cent of the cost of egg production. This meant that production costs outweighed returns; it was a loss-making business.
“As a result, many farmers like myself did the math and abandoned poultry. Even those who had been thinking of taking it up realised it would be futile.”
Thuku, however, believes there is still plenty of potential in egg production if the cost of chicken feed is addressed.
James Makini, founder of the One Hen One Project, said his organisation buys the raw material for chicken feed from Uganda, where it is cheaper, to keep production costs low.
“We import wheat bran, wheat pollard and maize germ from Uganda,” he said.
However, Mr Makini added that orders for eggs are placed even before they are laid, illustrating the untapped potential in the poultry industry.
And in places like Kisii, where land sizes are shrinking and youth unemployment rising, poultry farming would offer a sustainable solution.
Access to inputs
Across the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), access to input supplies remains a big constraint on the competitiveness of commercial poultry production.
To resolve the issue of the high cost of feed, scientists have resorted to breeding new varieties of chicken that eat less but still produce plenty of meat and eggs.
One such breed is Kenbro, which has been introduced into the Kenyan market. Kenbro is a dual-purpose breed suitable for local conditions and requiring less intensive management than exotic or indigenous chicken varieties.