The effect and massive impact of bird flu has left aside a vacuum of doubts for the poultry market especially Rwanda. The outbreak news of the epidemic disease left a black hole that has compelled Rwanda to shift focus to other outside-the-proximity countries in a bid to fill the gap in the market.
Over one month has elapsed since a ban was imposed on imports of poultry products from bird flu affected countries such as Uganda and some European countries, including Hungary, Germany, France, Denmark and The Netherlands.
The Head of Animal Resources at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), Dr Christine Kanyandekwe, affirmed that an alternative had to be found.
Since the end of January, 49,000 day-old chicks were imported from Mauritius, 29,000 from Belgium and 11.6 tonnes of fertilised eggs from South Africa, some of the countries whose poultry has been free from bird flu, according to Kanyandekwe.
The ban has an had impact on poultry farms, which have been importing chicks from the countries where bird flu cases have been recorded.
For instance, Poultry East Africa Ltd (PEAL), a $3 million Bugesera District-based poultry farm company, was importing from Uganda about 10,000 day-old broiler chicks per week, according to the firm’s managing director, Shumei Lam.
The company produces between 9,500 and 10,000 chickens, translating to between 15 and 20 tonnes of meat per week that it supplies to the Rwandan market.
Indeed, figures from RAB show that Rwanda was importing 50,000 day-old chicks and 100 tonnes of eggs per month and that about 80 per cent of such imports were from Uganda, before the bird flu outbreak.
Dr Kanyandekwe said after the ban on poultry products from the affected countries, the alternative was to import chicks and fertilised eggs to hatch, from countries safe from the disease.
Jean Baptiste Musabyimana, managing director of Agribusiness Solutions (Abusol) Ltd, a poultry farm that raises layer chicken in Bugesera District, has been importing one-day old chicks of Isa Brown species, a hybrid layer chicken species with high egg production, from the Netherlands.
But after the outbreak of avian flu in some European countries, Agribusiness Solutions decided to start importing chicks from Mauritius.
Musabyimana said he represents the Netherlands-based Isa Brown company in Rwanda and has been importing the layer chicks from that company at between Rw1,050 and Rwf1,100 each, noting that the price has increased to Rwf1,200 for those he is importing from Mauritius.
Musabyimana’s poultry farm was started in June 2016, and it has a chicken feed mill with the overall cost estimated at over Rwf1.5 billion. His farm is raising 30,000 layers, which can be replaced after two years.
Speaking about the change in prices of chicks, he said that what matters is not the price of a product, but availability and accessibility.
“The decision that they (RAB) took was essential to protect our farms. That is a decision we commend because they were vigilant on bird flu issue and they were flexible because they accepted poultry farmers go to import chicks from countries which were not affected by the viral bird disease, which I think is a good idea,” Musabyimana said.
The viral disease under control
Dr Kanyandekwe said there is cooperation between Rwanda and Uganda and their technical teams meet particularly to discuss the control of the disease, carrying out training and sharing information on the state of the issue.
She said Uganda set up various and strong control measures against bird flu.
“The disease was not detected in any other area after its outbreak. Considering the current situation, there is good progress because no others (birds) were affected [by the disease]. But we cannot lift the import ban too soon for precaution reasons,” she said.
“We are still assessing whether there is no other virus threat or risks.,” she said.
Enhancing local production capacity
Meanwhile, as part of efforts to reduce import and ensure balance of payment, Dr Kanyandekwe said the country privatised hatcheries to produce chicks locally.
“We want them to upgrade (their hatchery facilities) and maximise production so that the chicks are produced in the country,” she said, adding that the same applies to eggs.
In January, EasyHATCH Ltd, a Musanze District-based hatchery, increased its production capacity from more than 60,000 day-old chicks per month to more than 80,000 chicks.
It planned to further expand its capacity to 100,000 chicks within the next two months, according to Themba Mashinini, the firm’s managing director.
In August 2016, the Government leased, for 25 years, its Rwf2.3 billion Rubirizi National Hatchery to Flow Equity, a US firm, at Rwf750 million. The firm will operate under the name of Uzima Chicken Ltd.
Dr Kanyandekwe said Uzima has been importing new equipment and rehabilitating infrastructure with plans to start producing day-old chicks in April.
It will have capacity to produce 200,000 day-old chicks per month, up from 10,000 that were being produced before the Government privatised it, according to the official.
Dr Kanyandekwe said that egg production per year in Rwanda stands at 7,317 tonnes.