Inside Politics

Kisumu poultry farmers reel from Covid-19 crisis impact

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020 00:00 |
Poultry farmer Abisai Nandi tends to his flock of birds in one of the premises he uses as holding areas before the stock is distributed to farmers. Photo/PD/NOVEN OWITI

The only good news for chicken farmers is that prices of chicks have improved due to low imports from neighbouring Uganda as a result of border restrictions.

Poultry farmers in Kisumu county are reeling from the ravaging effects of the Coronavirus pandemic that has seen the majority scale down production.

The farmers have adjusted to the on-going crisis by lowering output due to marketing challenges.

Steve Kamwamu, a poultry farmer in Kisumu West sub-county, says his sales have dwindled following the ripple effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Consequently, the farmer has stopped stocking kienyeji (traditional chicken) birds that he keeps and sells for meat.

“Sales for mature chicken have gone down to almost zero. Our biggest customers are usually established hotels and since they are closed, demand has sharply reduced,” he says.

Consequently, Kamwamu is experiencing reduced earnings from producing and selling eggs from his battery cage poultry keeping system.

Currently, the farm can sell on average 50 trays of eggs daily, down from more than 80 trays previously. 

Markets closed

Yet, producing less trays is more expensive per tray and has less returns from the market.

“Business has dipped tremendously, with most customers saying they don’t have money. Locally, closed markets have also resulted to low sales,” says Kamwamu.

Initially, he says, there was uncertainty on availability of feeds because of transport disruptions.

Currently, the main challenge is transporting his produce to the market and the continued closure of open-air markets.  He decries increased transport costs of the products as a result of travel restrictions. 

Kamwamu has retained his stock of layers at 3,000 hoping that the pandemic will soon end to pave way for higher business volumes.

“I consider myself lucky that eggs are still considered a budget meal, so we still manage to sell a good number. We pray that feed prices don’t go up,” he says. 

The farmer’s prayer is that the government considers subsiding feed costs to cushion local poultry farmers from high production costs as the pandemic bites.

“We will be able to sell our products at prices that most people can afford if the production cost is lowered,” adds Kamwamu.

Abisai Nandi’s Chicken Basket farm, located at Tom Mboya Estate in Kisumu town, has also cut down its normal production to survive the impact of the pandemic effects on poultry farmers. 

With the slowdown in business, the farm now slaughters and sells about 300 chickens per day, down from 500 birds before the virus struck. 

Nandi has turned to a different marketing strategy to cope with the on-going Covid-19 impact on local businesses.

The farm now does a lot of home deliveries for its products in the wake of travel restrictions as containment measure to the virus.

The strategy is working out for him as parents with children at home have responded positively. 

“Our loyal customers simply place orders online and we make the deliveries to their doorsteps,” explains Nandi.

Between 20 and 50 slaughtered birds are sold via home deliveries while the remaining stock is sold at the established chicken basket butcheries.

Nandi’s decision to reduce production was necessitated by dwindling sales after most hotels that formed his farm’s clientele base closed business due to the Covid-19 effects. 

He urges the government to provide financial support to poultry farmers to enhance their capacity to produce more chicken. The move, he says, will boost food security amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The county government should consider strengthening all farmers’ capacities to ensure sufficiency in food production.

There is a lot of wastage going on as many poultry farmers are now resorting to selling their birds at throw-away prices because of low demand occasioned by the devastating effects of the virus,” regrets Nandi.

Uganda imports 

For Newton Frodwa, proprietor of Mayombe Hatcheries farm, interrupted supply chains of poultry products are the notable challenges brought about by Covid-19 outbreak.

His farm, which hatches improved kienyenji  chicks for sale to farmers in Nyanza and Western Kenya counties, is recording reduced sales due to low demand.

On normal days when business is doing well, the farm hatches about 5,000 eggs in every production cycle.

This translates into viable profits, but the numbers have dropped as a result of the pandemic’s effects.

“Travel restrictions have limited our access to markets, resulting in low business. Many clients can’t  reach us too,” he says. 

Frodwa says the only good news for local poultry farmers is that prices of chicks have improved due to low imports coming from the neighbouring Uganda country due to the border travel restrictions.

The dipping supply of poultry products comes in the backdrop of ever dwindling supply of such products by farmers in Kisumu county.

Statistics from the Agriculture Department indicate that the county was able to produce only 1,000 tonnes of poultry meat last year, which is not sufficient to feed its growing populace.

The figures show the farmers kept on average 500,000 broilers and 100,000 layers while the indigenous birds were found to be 2.3 million.

As a result, the county has a deficit in poultry products, forcing it to import from neighbouring counties and as far away as Nakuru. 

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