The high cost of inputs and unavailability of stock are hurting poultry farming in Kenya.
Production cost doubled in the last one year despite Kenyans’ adoption of healthy lifestyles that has seen wider uptake of chicken.
Growth has stagnated over the last five years mostly due to lack of incentives, said the Kenya Poultry Farmers Association (Kepofa).
Currently, over 21 million people rely on poultry farming for their livelihood and it contributes 6.1 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) generated from livestock.
Poultry farming uptake has boomed in Kenya’s rural areas where smallholder families, especially Western, Rift Valley and Eastern provinces, have taken to the product over the last 10 years.
There are approximately 30 million birds in the country, of which 76 per cent are free ranging indigenous chicken, 14 per cent are commercial layers and eight per cent broilers.
The remaining two per cent is made up of duck, turkey, quail and other birds.
Distribution by province stands at approximately 33.6 per cent, 26.9 per cent and 11.2 per cent for Nyanza, Rift Valley and Eastern provinces respectively, according to studies done by John Omiti, a senior policy analyst and head of Productive Sector Division at Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis (Kippra).
But the industry, which offers great potential for income generation and is a major source of protein, has seen slow growth over the years in both indigenous and exotic sectors.
According to the Economic Survey 2010, farmers produced 22,000 metric tonnes of chicken in 2006, compared with 23,000 last year.
Production hit a high of 24,000 metric tonnes in 2008.
Meanwhile, egg production rose to a high of 89,000 metric tonnes in 2008, falling to a four year low of 81,000 thousand metric tonnes last year.
The cost of production has increased from Sh1.9 billion in 2006 to Sh4.3 billion currently.
Analysts say the biggest challenge facing the industry is the high cost of inputs.
"The prices given to farmers do not commensurate the production costs thus discouraging small scale farmers. The industry is under regulated leading to exploitation of small scale farmers by middlemen and traders," said Wairimu Kariuki, chairman of Kepofa.
The average price for a day old chick in Nairobi was Sh77 and Sh50 for layers and broilers respectively in 2007.
Today, the prices are Sh90 and Sh60 respectively.
Meanwhile, the cost of charcoal and electricity, which are mainly used to keep the chicks warm for the first few weeks, has doubled.
While in 2007 the price of a bag of charcoal was Sh400, it now goes for Sh800 and the cost of animal feeds has also doubled.
Industry players are now banking on increased maize production to reduce the prise of inputs.
"If there is enough maize production in the country, feed prices should be able to come down. Support from the government can also help bring down feed prices," said Richard Kenei, the general manager at Kenya Bixa Limited.
Kenchic sales and marketing manager Humphrey Mwangi said that feeds, which consist mainly of maize and soya, account for approximately 70 per cent of the input costs.
Allowing for the importation of cheap maize and reduction of import duty on soya, which stands at 10 per cent, could help reduce production costs.
Farmers also face a shortage of day old broilers and layer chicks.