Poultry farmers are struggling to break even due to high cost of feeds and low returns as Ugandan imports shrink prices.

The price of a tray of eggs has gone down from Sh270 to a low of Sh150 since June last year.

So big is the problem that farmers operating at Wangige, one of the largest East African egg markets, demonstrated on February 5 against poor egg prices.

The farmers say cheap eggs from Uganda have flooded the market and created an artificial glut. They called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to block Ugandan imports or tax them to stabilise prices in Kenya.

A poultry farmer in Kayole has resorted to selling eggs for as little as Sh20 per three eggs. Another one in Thika burned hundreds of trays last month due to frustration.

Beatrice Mwai from Gikuni in Kagira, Kiambu county, has been selling her eggs at Wangige market every Monday morning for two decades, and prices have never been this low.

She said cheap eggs from Uganda have flooded the market, suppressing prices. Yet the cost of production in Kenya is higher than Uganda’s.

Currently, a tray of eggs at the market is selling at Sh150 from a high of Sh270 to Sh280.

Mwai said all was well until June last year, when the price went down to a low as Sh210, and now it is has dropped by Sh60 to sell at Sh150.

“Many poultry farmers are not even able to buy chicken feed from the sale of eggs. We are forced to dig deeper into our pockets to buy chicken feed, as the money we get from the sale of eggs is not enough to sustain the venture,” she said.

MORE COST THAN GAINS

Even with 400 chickens, Mwai is still unable to make enough money to buy chicken feed, and she is forced to borrow Sh1,500-2,000 from her husband.

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Mwai said in a week, she uses five bags of chicken layers, and a bag retails at Sh2,700 from the agrovet. “This means I must have at least Sh13,500,” she says.

She gets 60 trays of eggs per week, which she sells at Wangige market at Sh12,000. The shortfall, she borrows from her husband.

Mwai said poultry farmers are suffering and the government has not done anything to help them.

She feels that despite the free market in East Africa, Uganda is benefiting more in poultry farming since feeds are cheaper in Uganda than in Kenya.

To add insult to injury, the traders at the market are now required to part with Sh2 per tray as a fee to the county government of Kiambu. The fee was introduced recently, and they feel it was ill-timed because they are hardly making any money.

ALWAYS IN DEBT

Grace Kamau said poultry farmers in Kenya are a frustrated lot, and the government has been turning a blind eye on them, unlike maize farmers, who are given priority.

“I am always in debt at my local agrovet for chicken feeds because what I get from the sale of eggs is not enough. Most farmers are giving up on poultry farming as it is no longer profitable,” she said.

Anne Muthoni has 1,000 chickens at her farm in Ngong. She said some years back, poultry farming was a bankable venture, but today, she has nothing to brag about.

Muthoni said traders often bought eggs directly from her farm at Sh260-270, but today they have stopped coming and she is struggling to get new market.

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She is now stuck with 200 trays of eggs and is willing to sell them at a throwaway price. This is the frustration many poultry farmers are going through.

HIGH TAXES

Agriculture CAS Andrew Tuimur said the cost of production has been the biggest problem in Kenya. It is depressing the Kenyan market because eggs from Uganda are cheaper due to the low cost of cereals and lower taxes.

In 2013, the cost of production in Kenya increased following the imposition of a 16 per cent value added tax on poultry feeds.

Tuimur said the ministry will be meeting with feed manufacturers and producers and other stakeholders to discuss how to reduce the cost of production.

On egg imports from Uganda, the CAS said there is free trade in the East African Community, and Kenya imports eggs from Uganda and South Africa whenever there is a shortage.

He said in 2017, the government put a ban on egg imports due to an outbreak of Avina flu, and this was partly lifted.

“There is a procedure to be followed to ensure safety standards are met, but most of the eggs getting into the country are doing so illegally,” Tuimur said. Importers are required to have a licence from the Directorate of Veterinary Services.

Tuimur said the ministry is looking into the allegations of cheap eggs getting into the country and hurting prices.

Directorate of Veterinary Services director Dr Obadiah Njagi said counties should monitor the market and find the source of eggs being traded within them.

“This will help determine who is bringing eggs from outside the country and if they have veterinary certification form the DVS,” he told the Star.

“If they don’t have any documents, they should be arrested.”

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CREDIT: The Star, By AGATHA NGOTHO @agathangotho

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