Namibians feast on 25 million chickens

30 April 2018 | Agriculture

Namibia consumes on average 25 million chickens per year, which is roughly ten times the population of the country.

According to 2016 statistics the total annual consumption was 40 827 tons of chicken meat of which 20 572 tonnes were imported.

Namib Poultry Industries' chicken sales were 19 967 tons, while sales from local SMEs totalled 288 tons.

According Namib Poultry Industries commercial manager Pieter van Niekerk, since its official inception in 2012 and the appointment of 600 permanent employees, the Namibian formal broiler industry has not grown much, although demand has increased.

He said Namibia has a high growth potential for SMEs to create wealth, replace imports and promote sustainable employment, by strategically controlling the broiler industry, and thus protecting it against dumped products from international sources.

He stressed that all Southern African Customs Union (SACU) countries - South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Lesotho - should therefore work together to counter imports into their markets, rather than challenging one another.

“For Namibia to grow this sector, local production by larger companies as well as local SMEs needs to be stimulated.”

Van Niekerk said it is difficult to try and create a sustainable industry, where importers are looking for opportunities to benefit from measures that should have been aimed at improving local industries and growing local production. “The effect is more importers, instead of more producers.”

He pointed out that currently there is only one large chicken producer and said this is not sustainable, as any problem in production would negatively affect the whole Namibian market.

According to him the protection for the poultry industry in Namibia has had a positive contribution to SME development and the country has seen a rise of multiple SMEs in the poultry sector.

“With the present assistance of limiting import quantities, many small-scale poultry farmers are realising the potential of poultry farming in Namibia.”

He explained that local production costs are much higher in Namibia than in South Africa and new investments in an industry are always at a disadvantage, compared to industries that have been vested for longer periods.

Van Niekerk said the main reasons for the high price difference between South Africa and Namibia is that the Land of the Brave does not use poultry by-products in the feed (blood and feathers rendered into a protein meal).

This practice is standard in most other countries and decreases feed costs. Namibia also does not use broad-spectrum antibiotics and has higher water and electricity costs.

According to him Namibia's poultry meat industry is only six years old, compared to the South African industry which has been active for more than 40 years.

Niekerk added that Namibia slaughters 250 000 birds per week, while South Africa slaughters about 20 million birds over the same period.

“Costs of personnel, maintenance and food safety are recouped much quicker by a South African producer, while local producers have far fewer numbers to achieve critical volumes.”

He said that transport and input costs, raw materials, spare parts, medication and parent stock also increases local production costs.

Furthermore, distribution in Namibia is also a large cost contributor, as it is a vast country with only 4% of the South African population, making distribution very expensive.

Van Niekerk said that while South Africa cannot compete on price against Brazilian imports, likewise Namibia cannot compete against South African imports. “Most of Namibia's imports are either from South African origin or imported via South Africa into Namibia.”

He added that the avian influenza outbreak in South Africa and other countries has decreased the imports, but Namibia has not invested sufficiently in order to substitute this.

“For Namibia to be self-sufficient, further investment will be required to expand the current capacity.”

According to him Namibia's import restriction for chicken has been challenged in court by the South African industry, which has also applied to protect their borders from Brazilian, European and North American broiler producers. “Most countries understand the importance of this industry within their borders and also have import control measures. Just looking in our region: Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana have import restrictions.”

The broiler industry refers to chickens produced for the purpose of chicken meat. The global consumption of broiler chicken meat is estimated at 116 billion kilogrammes per annum (roughly 70 billion chickens). With a population of 7.6 billion, the world consumes 15kg per capita.

Over the past decade, chicken meat has surpassed pig and beef in consumption, making it a very important protein source globally.

Chicken meat is much cheaper than other protein, firstly because chickens, due to its small size, can be grown in a smaller area and managed more effectively, and secondly because the feed conversion ratio, meaning the amount of feed required for 1kg of meat, is extremely efficient.

Cattle ranges between six to eight kilogrammes of feed required for 1kg of meat, while chicken meat only requires 1.6kg of feed for 1kg of meat produced.



ELLANIE SMIT

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