Revamping the poultry sector will the policies ever work?
In spite of the numerous projects and policies initiated by successive governments to revamp and scale up the performance of Ghana’s poultry industry, the sector continues to underperform, with industry players fearing that the sector could collapse in future.
Over the past decade, the government has initiated at least five separate strategic policies and programmes targeted at building the capacities of local poultry farms to meet the country’s increasing demand for poultry products.
They include the Cockerel Project (2009), SADA Guinea Fowl Production Project (2013), Broiler Revitalisation Project (2015), CSIR-ARI ARIBRO Project (2015) and the Livestock Policy and Strategy Document (2016).
The Broiler Revitalisation Programme, for instance, was introduced with the intention of reducing poultry imports by 40 per cent.
However, the plan flopped. According to the poultry farmers, it was bedevilled with low sales as local producers had to contend with cheap imports.
For example, while a kilogramme of imported poultry was around GH¢7-10, consumers had to pay at least GH¢50, depending on the size, for local poultry.
The Livestock Development Policy and Strategy document, which spans a period of 10 years (from 2016 to 2025), also shares in the agenda of reducing livestock imports drastically by empowering local producers to become competitive.
Three years into the programme, it appears the poultry sector has not benefitted from the initiative, with the Ghana National Association of Poultry Farmers (GNAPF) bemoaning that local producers accounted for only five per cent of the about 300,000 tonnes of chicken consumed annually.
Demand for broiler meat in Ghana is ever increasing. Meanwhile, domestic supply remains mostly stagnant, allowing imports to fill the gap.
Ghana’s frozen chicken imports jumped from 13,000 tonnes in 2000 to over 155,000 tonnes in 2011, costing $169 million, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In its 2017 report titled: “Ghana Poultry Report Annual”, the USDA (Foreign Agricultural Service) forecasted Ghana’s importation of frozen chicken to reach 158,000 tonnes, an increase of 10 per cent from 144,000 tonnes in 2016.
The projection, it explained, was informed by the “increasing demand for less expensive frozen poultry and the deficit created by the low domestic poultry (broiler) meat production”.
In the 2019 budget presentation, the Finance Minister, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, revealed that the country spent $374 million to import poultry meat every year.
For close to two decades, the local industry has been plagued with excessive importation of frozen chicken, high cost of poultry feed, absence of credit schemes, lack of processing facilities among other challenges.
Today, many giants in the industry such as Afariwa and Darko Farms, which combined with many others to supply to meet local demand and for exports decades ago, have all collapsed, leaving a few in operation.
Even those that were owned by the State, including Pomadze Poultry Farm, which was the largest in West Africa in the 1980s, have all collapsed, bringing in its wake more unemployment figures.
According to the GNAPF, the poultry industry, when offered the right support, could offer direct employment to over 500,000 people and contribute to achieving the “Ghana Beyond Aid” agenda.
In an interview, the Vice-Chairman of the GNAPF, Mr Napoleon Agyeman Oduro, stated that many of its members had lost their investments due to poor sales and high cost of production, making it difficult for them to expand to meet the country’s demand.
“If one could turn poultry coups into a hotel overnight, I think a lot of poultry farmers in Ghana today would have converted years ago.
Because we have already invested in it, we are hanging on to see if there will be a change,” he stated.
It is not all doom and gloom for the poultry sector as opportunities still exist to bring the sector back to life.
With the government intending to initiate another programme dubbed: “Rearing for food and Jobs”, it is imperative that all stakeholders are roundly engaged to ensure a successful implementation.
Beyond the policy level, the industry players should assume responsibility and explore partnership opportunities to safeguard their investments.
Until we make a deliberate effort to build the capacities of the local farmers to increase their production at a cheaper cost, the issue of excess importation will be difficult to resolve.