If there is one good effect that COVID-19 could have on Ghanaian society, it is the possible disruption in supply of imported poultry products like chicken. This is as a result of the travel restrictions by different countries as containment measures for the virus. But could this be an opportunity for Ghana to be self-sufficient in poultry production?
Levels of imported Chicken into Ghana
According to Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), the country’s poultry meat demand is 400,000 metric tonnes per year. Domestic poultry production currently stands at 57,870 metric tonnes annually. The shortfall in domestic production is currently filled with an importation of over 300,000 metric tonnes at the value of US$374million, which is approximately GH¢2bn. This level of import can be blamed on the inability of local producers to meet this national demand.
Challenges with local poultry
The question in the minds of many is, why has the local poultry industry not been able to produce and meet the local demand? A number of reasons are adduced.
The first challenge for poultry farmers in Ghana is high cost of production as a result of expensive inputs like vaccines and feeds. Major ingredients of poultry feed in Ghana like soya and maize are expensive and have seen an appreciation of price during this COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the vaccines are imported, and COVID-19 has made their prices even higher.
The combined effect of all these have made the cost of chicken produced to be less competitive as compared to the imported ones. For instance, a 3.5 kilo imported chicken gos for GH¢20, whereas a locally produced chicken at the same weight goes for a minimum of GH¢30 at the farm gate.
Another key challenge is infrastructure. Infrastructure such as roads, ICT, slaughterhouses have not been well developed, especially in the rural communities. These are hampering poultry farmers from taking advantage of the opportunities they have to produce and meet the local demand.
The difficulty in accessing credit is yet another challenge to the sub-sector. Many poultry farmers who operate as small scale farmers do not have access to cheaper credit that enables them to expand their production. Because of that, they are not able to get the day-old chicks, feed, vaccines and equipment to improve their production.
Finally, poor policy coordination among all the poultry value chain actors is affecting the local production of poultry. Right from farm to fork, there is no effective coordination along the chain. Key factors such as hatcheries, feed manufacturers, farmers, slaughterhouses, cold-store operators, transporters and supermarket owners are not well-coordinated. This in-effective coordination among them is hindering production capacity of local producers.
Recommendations and the way forward
The first step to addressing the challenges of local farmers in meeting the national poultry demand is to have a credible and reliable database. The non-availability of data makes it difficult to create any policy intervention that can target them. Its therefore important that efforts be made to identify those who are really into poultry production, document them, and locate them. This will allow for effective planning by policymakers and other actors who may want to invest in the sector.
Another way of helping the farmers be better-positioned to produce and meet the local demand is to introduce input credit. Such a credit could help poultry farmers acquire the needed inputs for their production at the right time. Such a credit scheme could be hinged on the database. To this end, efforts can be made to give farmers vouchers and one-stop shops where they could go for inputs at subsidised prices.
Also, training extension officers is yet another issue. There are very few veterinary officers in the system. The few that are there are poorly-equipped to offer veterinary advice to farmers. There are instances when farmers who need their services have to go their houses to pick them up. This does not help the farmers.
Finally, the issue of policy coordination is key. For poultry farmers to meet national needs for poultry meat, there is a necessity for coordination of all actors along the value chain. To this end, there is also need for an inclusive poultry policy for the country that ensures all the actors are brought onboard to find a common solution for the problem confronting poultry farmers in Ghana.
In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic definitely has its downside with all the serious consequences on the economy of Ghana – but in every problem there are opportunities. If things are put right, COVID-19 could be an opportunity to re-start the poultry sector; but this time around with a more informed aim of achieving self-sufficiency. This will save the country its limited and hard-earned foreign exchange, provide more nutritious and quality meat to consumers, and create jobs for the teeming youth.
>>>The writer is a policy advocate and consultant in agriculture and trade policies. He can be reached on 0249731699/0209029686 and [email protected]