Ghanaians who prefer local poultry products for the festive season will either have to pay higher for the product or settle for imports, as poultry farmers struggle to secure day-old-chicks in time for Christmas in addition to other challenges threatening to collapse the sector.
In an interview with Michael Nyarko-Ampem, a leading farmer in the poultry sector, he bemoaned the myriad challenges which have culminated in the looming shortage despite all efforts by stakeholders including government, farmers, banks and importers of day-old-chicks, to help salvage the situation.
He noted that COVID-19 has pushed more than 200 poultry farmers and their farms out of business and pushed the price of raw materials for feed higher, thus reducing margins; avian flu is ravaging more than 150 farms in the Ashanti and Bono Regions; and farmers are struggling to secure day-old-chicks in time to be ready for the annual Christmas festivities.
“We usually use imported day-old-chicks and/or hatching eggs which are hatched locally, but due to COVID-19 we couldn’t secure the eggs in time. With Christmas, there is a deadline we work with. If you are unable to secure the day-old-chicks by the second week of October, you will struggle to meet the time,” Mr. Nyarko-Ampem told the B&FT in an exclusive interview.
The devastating impact of COVID-19
“COVID-19 led to a slowdown in sales which resulted in a cut-back on production, and this drove many farmers out of business. For the Ashanti, Bono East and Bono Regions, where we have the bulk of poultry farmers, I can roughly say about 200 farmers exited the industry,” he said.
“In Ghana we experienced a total lockdown of Accra, Tema and Kumasi for only three weeks due to COVID-19; however, some countries – especially where we secure the day-old-chicks, experienced longer complete lockdowns and so farmers there were not working. Then we have avian flu devastating farms this year, too,” he said.
Gov’t’s good intentions
Despite government’s good intentions and support for the sector, Mr. Nyarko-Ampem believes the looming shortage of local chicken for Christmas couldn’t have been avoided since most of the causes are external and not internal.
“Government is aware of all that is happening. The Agric Ministry is doing its best when it comes to supply of raw materials for feed and importation of day-old-chicks but the shortages are global; and so, even with licences for permits to import chicks, the suppliers are unable to supply,” he said.
He pointed out that the situation is so severe that some suppliers of day-old-chicks, outside the country and locally, have had to refund monies to farmers because they were unable to meet the demand.
Ghana currently spends almost US$400million on chicken imports annually, which represents about 200,000 to 250,000mt. While local producers are striving to increase their market share, which currently stands between 20,000 to 25,000 or 10 percent of imports, Mr. Nyarko-Ampem is worried that activities this year could reverse all the gains made by locals and place the entire industry in the hands of importers.
Government introduced the Broiler Revitalisation Programme that saw the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) dedicate some GH¢500million to reviving the poultry sector. The initiative aims to invest a total of GH¢500million of soft loans in businesses in the poultry value chain to help de-risk their operations, increase chicken production and cut out the imports.
In partnership with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Bank of Ghana (BoG), Ghana Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (GIRSAL) and the Out-grower and Value Chain Fund (OVCF), the programme is meant to end the country’s dependence on imported poultry products and create jobs for the youth.