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 about 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 the 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 devastating impact of COVID-19
“The 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 at Accra, Tema, and Kumasi for only three weeks due to pandemic; however, some countries – especially where we secure the day-old chicks, experienced longer complete lockdowns and so farmers were not working. Then we have avian flu devastating farms this year, too,” he said.
Gov’t’s good intentions
Despite the government’s 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.
“The government is aware of all the happenings. The Agric Ministry is doing its best when it comes to the supply of raw materials and importation of day-old chicks but the shortages are global; and so, even with permits for importing day-old 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, had to refund monies to farmers because they were unable to meet the demands.
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.
The government introduced the Broiler Revitalisation Programme which the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) supported farmers with GH¢500million to revive 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.