Despite being a high consumer of chicken, Ghana’s inability to produce enough to meet local demand has reduced its poultry sector to one that relies on imports to service 90% of its demand.
When the Ministry of Food and Agriculture banned the importation of poultry products from the Netherlands, Germany, Russia, Denmark and the United Kingdom last year, many thought poultry farmers would seize the opportunity to boost local production of poultry.
Last year, Ghana’s struggling poultry sector suffered two crises that threatened to collapse businesses within the sector; the coronavirus pandemic and the scarcity of maize.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit Ghana on March 2020, agriculture, a sector that had been underperforming for years, surprisingly rose to the occasion and grew by 2.5 percent while the service and Industry sectors contracted by 2.6 percent and 5.7 percent respectively.
Unfortunately, poultry farmers like Philip Appiah Yamoah, the CEO of Barah farms, did not benefit from the gains.
He narrates his struggles: “When the virus started last year, we had a very sharp crises, our eggs were getting bad because schools were closed, and we could not find market for our eggs. Most of us had to sell our chickens that were laying eggs because we did not have a market for the eggs.”
Thankfully, the lockdown period did not last forever. Within weeks, life gradually went back to normal but Philips’ challenges were just beginning.
He continues, “When the lockdown was eased and things were going back to normal, we were thinking of getting our businesses back up. Unfortunately, around November 2020, there was a serious shortage of maize”.
Though the nation had made a lot of progress as far as doubling its production of maize from 1.7 million metric tonnes in 2016 to 3 million metric tonnes in 2019, it was still unable to produce enough maize to meet local demand.
Just as poultry farmers were preparing to take advantage of the demands from the holiday season, they were hit with a scarcity of maize which is very critical to poultry rearing since it forms a large part of feed for the birds.
Philip continues narrating his struggles, “Nobody anticipated the scarcity of maize, not even the government because per the statistics, we had enough to take us through the year. I lost over 800 birds because I was not able to feed them well and they had some infections. That made the year very difficult, we are still going through it, we have not recovered and because of that, we can’t even buy new birds”.
The scarcity of maize is not the only factor hindering the growth of the local poultry sector.
Ghana currently imports over US$ 300 million worth of chicken annually and these products tend to be cheaper than their local counterparts making it difficult for local poultry farmers to compete.
According to Philip, the solution lies in a deliberate political will to decrease our dependence on imports, “If there is no political will to stop or cut down the importation of poultry products, like the way Nigeria did, to stop the importation of day-old chicken, we cannot compete. Now, if you go to Nigeria, they do not import chicken, they do not import day old and as a result of this, all the companies that ordinarily will import to Nigeria are operating there”.
Despite the fact that the coronavirus pandemic brought with it a renewed demand for locally grown fruits and vegetables, strong advocacy for healthy eating has not been able to successfully penetrate the poultry value chain. Philip eloquently explains why, “Even though I produce fresh and organic chicken from my farm, sometimes I do not eat them because I have no option. If I walk into a restaurant right now, the likelihood that I will be served an imported chicken is 100%. I just had my lunch; I ate chicken and I have no doubt that it was imported. If we have a system that decreased our production cost, our locally grown chicken will find their way to our colds store and restaurants.”
Thankfully, Philip has a solution to get more Ghana-produced chicken on the plates of Ghanaians.
“We want to start our own restaurant or chicken with the chicken from our farm, so consumers have access to locally made chicken when they go out to eat.”