COVID-19: Poultry farming at crossroads…as virus disrupts market

The coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on the daily life from an average man on street to businesses, and the poultry sector, even more essential than ever, has not gone unscathed.

The Dormaa enclave of the Bono Region is one of the leading poultry production areas in the country. Farmers there are largely into egg production with an average birds’ population between 200 and 500 for the many small-scale farmers. The highest large scale producer has about 200,000 birds.

Even though the Bono Region has not recorded any case of COVID-19, the trickle-down effect of the outbreak in Accra and Kumasi, among others, has created a plethora of challenges for poultry farmers in that part of the country, putting their business at the crossroads.

The chunk of eggs produced in Dormaa, Sunyani and Drobo were patronised by buyers from Accra and Kumasi for onward supply to schools, hospitality facilities and other institutions. But B&FT has gathered that the closure of schools, inactiveness of hotels and restaurants, and the partial lockdown of Accra, Kumasi and Kasoa have severely disrupted the market of the famers.

Chairman of Dormaa Poultry Farmers Association, Dei Kusi, in an interview with B&FT said: “prior to the announcement of the partial lockdown of Accra, Kumasi and Kasoa by the President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo last Friday night, demand had reduced drastically as supply to schools and hotels had halted.  The new directive will compound our woes because the open market which is our only hope is also on partially lockdown.”

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Drivers worried about spread of virus

He revealed that carting the eggs to market centres in Accra and Kumasi was a challenge as the cargo drivers were anxious of getting infested by the virus, adding that the drivers had also cited other reasons such not getting loads on return, and therefore they have increased charges to cater for potential losses for trekking back with empty cargo trucks.

“The drivers used to charge GH¢5 per each a box of eggs. They unilaterally increased it by 50 percent to GH¢8.5. This has created disagreement between them [drivers] and the buyers. Obviously, the market women will pass on to consumers, which will eventually cause price hike in the two lockdown cities,” he said.

Shortage of essentials in feed

Mr. Kusi also pointed out that the sector faces imminent shortage of essential inputs like soya for feed and concentrate, explaining that most of these items are imported and the closure of the country’s borders and restrictions at the ports makes it difficult for the importers to bring in these goods. He added that farmers have started to ration the limited stocks and they could soon run out of stocks.

A local supplier of Intraco feed concentrate from Belgium, Reynolds Kyeremeh told B&FT that the input is given to the farmers on credit, but most of the farmers now are unable to settle their indebtedness due to the market disruption by the pandemic. He also mentioned delay in clearing goods at the port as a result of restrictions and change in protocols, indicating that it adds on the charges.

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The concentrate supplier further noted that should the prevalence of the coronavirus persist for long, it is likely that the Belgium Company- Intraco limited will hold on production. A situation that would automatically affect supply to farmers in the country, he added.

Farmers in limbo

On his part, a Sunyani-based farmer owning about 5,000 birds, Henry Gyabaah, said in 2019, he invested GH¢120,000 in a farm which he has not even recouped GH¢20,000. Apprehensive of the situation, the farmer pondered how to survive in this turbulent times of the coronavirus pandemic and pleaded with the government for a possible bailout.

“Tamale is the alternative market but now that cases have been recorded there, it’s also unsafe to do business there too. Ordinarily, we could have sold the birds in situation like this; our reliable market is neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire but we are unable to do so. The local market for birds remain uncompetitive,” he indicated.

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