The future of the Zambian poultry industry is bleak. Commercial poultry farming has a relatively high demand for energy. The constant interruptions of power supply due to load shedding are increasing bird mortality and impairing growth prospects whilst increased electricity tariffs directly bear on the overall cost of production.
In addition, the full impact of the Kwacha depreciation will soon be felt through higher costs of day-old chicks, stockfeed, medicines and other inputs. Producers will push the cost burden to the consumers and consumers will have to reduce their consumption of poultry protein to much lower levels – literally spelling the doom for an entire industry.
Typical of “captive industries” that are increasingly controlled by a handful of players both at the global level and in the domestic economy, the chances for farm-level adjustments in lowering the cost of production in the poultry industry are slim. The small farmer is at the tail-end and does not have much flexibility in this regard. Even when subjected to “contract farming” by the hatcheries and abattoirs, there are highly limited chances of significant quick innovations in controlling the cost of production.
At the national level, we are still held captive by a few multinationals that control the breeding lines and associated technologies. We are far away from “food sovereignty” in the poultry industry and we are paying dearly for it under crucial moments like we are facing today.
It is high time we started investing in research and sciences that will allow us develop our own breeding lines. Similarly, more attention needs to be paid to the use of cassava and other drought resistant crops in feed formulation. The heavy dependency on maize is unsustainable.
Further, our traditional poultry breeds require more support, extension and facilitation along the value chain. Over the past 40 years, we have done little to improve growth and the marketing of the traditional poultry breeds. There is a lot to learn from other countries that have been smarter than us, more especially those in Asia and West Africa.