Tanzania is facing a biting shortage of chicken that has seen retail prices rise, months after it banned importation of poultry from neighbouring countries.
Big hotels and food shops across the country, mostly in Dar es Salaam and Arusha cities, are feeling the impact of the shortage.
Tanzania Poultry Breeders Association secretary general Manase Mrindwa told The EastAfrican that some firms had stopped production of day-old chicks, leading to a shortage of broilers and layers.
Breeders say they have failed to produce enough chicken due to the high taxes charged on the importation of parent-stock, which produces fertilised eggs. A single parent stock is sold at between $5 and $10, which is out of reach for most producers.
Owing to the shortage, the price of a kilogramme of a broiler has risen from Tsh6,000 ($2.8) to Tsh10,000 ($ 4.5).
Tanzania also declined to ratify a regional agreement which allows East Africa Community partner states to share veterinary services.
The failure by Tanzania to approve the Mutual Recognition Agreement for East African Vets which came into force in 2016 has made it difficult for other EAC member states to export chicken to Tanzania.
The agreement provides that any EAC member state can import or export chicken and livestock within the region as long as the animals have been tested by a veterinary professional from any of the signatory countries.
In 2016, Tanzania banned the importation of chicks and fresh poultry meat from the US to protect local farmers.
Tanzania has used the ban to protect its poultry farmers from what it sees as unfair competition posed by cheap imports of chicken from the US, whose farmers are supported by the government through subsidies.
In April this year, Tanzanian poultry breeders asked the government to maintain the ban on poultry imports to protect their business.
The Tanzania Poultry Breeders Association said members had the capacity to meet about 85 per cent of the local market’s needs.
On October 31, 2017, government authorities in Arusha destroyed 6,400 chicks imported from Kenya through the Namanga border crossing.
Tanzania has an estimated chicken population of 32 million commercially bred birds — 24 million broilers and eight million layers.
The country’s per capita consumption of chicken is estimated at 15kg per year. Production capacity for egg and meat broiler chicken is 750,000 per week against an official demand estimate of over 3.7 million per week, Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries records show.
The poultry industry is divided into traditional poultry production and commercial production.
The traditional poultry sector is the largest, contributing about 70 per cent of the flock and supplying 100 per cent of poultry meat and eggs consumed in rural homes and commercial outlets and 20 per cent in towns and cities.
Mr Mrindwa told The EastAfrican that commercial poultry production in Tanzania has been lagging behind due to lack of farmers focused in poultry production, high capital investment, unorganised markets for poultry and poultry products, unreliable supply of day old chicks, lack of reliable supply of quality poultry feeds, high veterinary and poultry feed costs and lack of poultry processing industries.
Deputy Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Abdalah Ulega said that the Tanzania government is now looking to launch special training on poultry breeding, targeting to raise household incomes.
He said the government will regulate prices of animal feeds to attract more poultry breeders through cheaply available, animal foods.
In 2007, Tanzania banned chick importation.
Last November, government officials confiscated and burnt 5,000 one-day old chicks they said had been illegally imported through the northern Namanga border with Kenya.
The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Livestock, Maria Mashingo said the unnamed importer did not have the necessary documents.
The government than justified its actions by saying that move to destroy the chicks was aimed at preventing the spread of bird flu.
“There is no need of destroying an entire chicken sector because of only 5,000 chicks,” Ms Mashingo was quoted.
Three months earlier, officials had set alight some 6,400 day-old chicks worth about $6,000 impounded at the same border post, a move that was widely condemned by animal enthusiasts from both countries. Veterinarians in Tanzania condemned the country’s decision to burn the chicks.
Executive director of Tanzania Animal Welfare Society Dr Thomas Kahema suggested that there were alternatives to curb outbreak of animal diseases such as bird flu.