Chicken imports killing Dar’s poultry farming

Small scale poultry farming is facing imminent collapse because of imported chicken, particularly from Brazil and the United States.

The imports are increasingly causing thousands of farmers lose income and lay off workers while  such poultry products expose the country to diseases, experts have said.

Poultry farmers in urban areas are most affected because they rear exotic chicken and that puts them in direct competition with producers in North and South America.

 “Chicken from overseas, where farmers enjoy heavy subsidies, are stifling local producers,” Mr Michael Mziray, a small scale poultry farmer at Mbezi Tangi Bovu in Dar es Salaam, said at the weekend.

In Zanzibar, several farmers have closed up shop in the wake of massive, cheap chicken imports.

Mr Mziray, who has been into poultry keeping for the last 20 years, said he recently invested Sh7 million in his chicken farm but since the market is saturated with imports, he might recover only Sh4 million.

He said a chicken should be sold after 35 days but it now stays up to 90 days awaiting buyers and this affects its value and quality.

“I have been forced to sell 1,000 chickens on credit after they overstayed on my farm. I am now clearing the farm but I can’t tell when I will be paid,” said the farmer, adding that while 1kg of imported chicken sells for Sh5,000, the local variety sells for Sh7,000.

“I took a bank loan to run this business but now my future is bleak, thanks to the chicken imports,” said Mr Mziray.

Ms Nai Mollel, his neighbour at Mbezi Tangi Bovu, echoed the same concern, saying that she was thinking of closing down her six-hectare farm at Bunju.

“I invested Sh20 million in this poultry farm, which presently boats between 4,000 and 5,000 chickens but there is nowhere to sell them. Most of the small scale producers are now calling it quits,” said Mollel.

Mr Mziray and Ms Mollel, who are among tens of hundreds of affected small scale poultry farmers, appealed to the government to be bold and stop chicken imports.
“Why is the government allowing chicken imports instead of protecting its own poultry farmers,” queried Ms Mollel.

The chairman of the Tanzania Commercial Poultry Association (TCPA), Dr Herman Moshi, has appealed to the government to enforce its ban on imported chicken.

He said a recent TCPA survey revealed there is a lot of imported chicken in the market, something that was killing the local poultry industry.

Dr Moshi said the association was worried over the quality of imported chicken, adding: “One can never tell whether the chickens being dumped in the country have been affected by the bird flu.”

“Imported chicken is banned,” is a slogan prescribed in posters of the Tanzania Commercial Poultry Association. 

A survey by The Citizen last week found repacked cartons of frozen chicken and turkey thigh cubes and wings imported from Brazil and the US. The cartons weighing between 800 and 1,000gm each did not display the date of manufacture or that of expiry.

When contacted over the weekend, the minister for Livestock and Fisheries Development, Dr Mathayo David, said the ban on imported chicken was still in force to protect the country from the bird flu, a viral endemic to birds currently perceived as a significant emerging pandemic threat.  

He said the government has started conducting inspection to nab businesses that were importing chicken.

Dr Mathayo said some of the imported chicken products found their way into the Mainland market from Zanzibar where chicken imports are allowed.

“It is very unfortunate that some of the chicken imported to Zanzibar are being smuggled to the Mainland,” said the minister.

On reports that some crooked officials in his ministry were behind the issuance of forged permits for importation of chickens, Dr Mathayo said his ministry would investigate the claims.

“If this is true, the officials implicated in permits scam will face the music,” warned Dr Mathayo.

Zanzibar poultry farmers say they cannot compete with chicken imports, especially from Brazil whose prices are incredibly low.
Source: The Citizen, reported by Lucas Liganga from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
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