African chicken production future bright but challenging

Chicken and egg production in Africa should expand as part of improving economic and social conditions, but numerous challenges still need to be resolved.

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Composite sourced from Bigstockphoto.com
Composite sourced from Bigstockphoto.com

African demand for poultry meat and eggs is expected to see significant growth in the coming years as incomes rise and urbanization continues. The rewards for the industry could be significant, but challenges also will need to be resolved.

Speaking at Poultry Africa, held in early October in Kigali, Rwanda, Nan-Dirk Mulder, Rabobank senior analyst animal protein, noted that Africa’s economic growth had been above the global average over the past couple of years, but that it would not simply be growing economies driving demand; population growth and urbanization would also push demand for animal protein higher.

Within sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the population is expected to double by 2050. Concurrently, there will be a drift to the cities. Currently, 40 percent of the population lives in urban areas. By 2050, this will have risen to 60 percent.

As demographics change, there will be a further shift across the continent to consuming eggs and meat, with demand for the latter due to increase by 5-6 percent per year.

This growth will build on what, by global standards, are low levels of protein consumption. Daily protein intake in Africa stands at 69.1 grams per day, significantly below the global average of 81.2 grams. Only 23 percent of protein intake in Africa comes from animal sources.

It is also worth remembering that Africa is resource rich, and is home to many small, but fast-growing economies in the sub-Saharan region, yet a number of significant issues remain to be resolved across the chicken meat and egg sectors.

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Egg production

Speaking at the Marketing Outlook, organized by WATT Global Media as part of Poultry Africa’s Leadership Conference, Vincent Guyonnet, managing director of FFI Consulting, noted that, while Africa is home to 13 percent of the global population, it only accounts for approximately 4 percent of the world’s egg production.

Unsurprisingly, egg consumption is also low. In 2013, of the 50 countries around the world where less than one egg per week was consumed, 13 were in Africa, Guyonnet noted.

However, this figure masks significant regional variation. In Mozambique, for example, annual per capita egg consumption stands at 4. In Namibia the figure rises to 96, while in South Africa the total jumps to 150.

The egg industry is growing – by 4 percent over the last decade and predictions suggest a further 36 percent increase by 2025. The east of Africa is expected to see slightly higher growth rates, with forecasts indication an expansion of 4 percent per annum, while in the west, annual growth will be slightly lower at 3 percent each year.

African egg industry drivers

In addition to population growth and urbanization driving demand for eggs, Guyonnet also cited greater access to information and communication technologies as stimuli for growing demand.

He continued that consumer education would be important to encourage greater inclusion of eggs in diets, and noted that only a minority of national dietary guidelines in African countries include of eggs in their recommendations. This makes highlighting the nutritional benefits of eggs, and addressing the myths and taboos that surround them in some countries, all the more important.

Branding can also help, for example through emphasizing protein content or that eggs are produced locally, and as markets become more sophisticated, new product categories can be introduced, such as enriched, or welfare friendly eggs.

Broiler meat outlook

The local aspect of production was also examined by Kevin Lovell, International Poultry Council co-chair of the Animal Health and Welfare Group, who asked attendees to consider what it meant to produce poultry meat and eggs in Africa, why local production might be important, and what it meant to a developing country.

Being in a developing country means seeking to change our nations’ structures, Lovell suggested, seeking our own version of what the developed world has. Local production represents identity, and the 2003 Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa makes this clear, he continued.

Local production also fosters employment, adding stability and opportunity to rural areas, and the poultry industry can offer many and varied opportunities.

Opportunities for change

Despite its abundant resources, Africa remains a significant importer of chicken meat.  In 2016, sub-Saharan Africa was the sixth largest importer of chicken meat in the world, while West Africa came in at 10th.

But there are steps that can be taken to improve the continent’s situation and to foster home production. The rising, more prosperous population should act as a driver for demand, and current low consumption levels mean that there is room to grow. But while demand may be growing, more attention needs to be paid to ensuring that supply can respond.

For this to happen, there needs to be government support, for example, though government and private sector partnerships and making poultry part of a national future. Trade protection systems need to be strengthened, and infrastructure and skills capacity need to be strengthened. None of this will be easy, however, while financial resources are limited.

The sector also needs to work with foreign technology partners, while adopting production patterns that suit local needs. Resistance to genetically modified organisms needs to be addressed, and sanitary and phytosanitary and other trade measures firmly adopted, Lovell noted.

And there would appear a strong opportunity on the horizon if projected supply shortfalls are accurate. For example, taking into account changes in demographics, by 2050, there will be a forecast of shortfall of 21 million tons of chicken in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

Better managing feed

Bart Hillen of Danisco Animal Nutrition looked at improving the profitability of poultry production through precision nutrition.

As poultry production in Africa moves away from traditional methods and birds, and commercial production grows, it will become ever more important to make the most of the raw materials available for feed.

With modern broilers, which will be increasingly adopted across the continent, there exists the possibility of higher performance, if those birds are managed properly. Enzymes can help to increase feed digestibility and so help to ensure that maximum performance from these birds is achieved. African producers will increasingly not only have to look at raising the volume of birds produced, but also at improving efficiency and achieving cost savings.

When feed materials are variable, and when prices increase, any inputs must be used with greater care and creativity, and enzymes, reliable matrix values and good service provision can help to overcome difficulties that producers may experience.

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