No respite for farmers as animal feeds prices to rise

Animal feeds

A chicken feeding. The high cost of feeds has seen farmers reduce their flock to cut costs. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Livestock farmers are staring at fresh rise in cost of animal feeds despite the government allowing millers to import non-genetically modified (GM) yellow maize and that which has some little GM content duty-free.

Martin Kinoti, the Association of Kenya Feeds Manufacturers (Akefema) secretary-general, said that the window the government allowed for importation of the two maize varieties is lapsing yet little grain has been imported due to scarcity.

"We have petitioned the government to consider extending the window for importation of yellow maize and review the guidelines on importation of genetically modified maize to address the current shortfall,” said Kinoti.

In September last year, the National Treasury exempted payment of import duty on imported raw materials, including yellow maize, used in the manufacture of livestock feeds, starting from November 1, 2021 to the end of October.

Last month, Treasury climbed down on importation of 100 per cent GM-free to 99.1 per cent, not only for imported yellow maize but also other ingredients that include soya bean, soya bean meal, sunflower cake and white sorghum.

Global markets

But Kinoti said that it is difficult to access maize with little GM content in the regional and global markets.

According to him, three manufacturers have so far imported 40,000 tonnes of yellow maize, which is little considering the demand and shortfall in the market. Demand for animal feeds annually stands at 350,000 tonnes.

"Another 40,000 tonnes will be shipped into the country in the next three weeks. The Covid-19 pandemic, the Ukraine-Russia conflict and the rise in forex exchange have negatively impacted on global cost of the commodity and logistics, resulting in rise in prices of raw materials by up to 60 per cent," he said.

He noted that the Zambian government has agreed to release two million bags of maize but with the current logistics, the price will reach.Sh5,500 per 90kg bag once the product reaches here.

"This scarcity of maize has negatively impacted the feed industry with some of our members forced either to operate below capacity or shut down. At least, 37 millers have closed down on scarcity of raw materials," said Kinoti, adding prices of the feeds will continue to go up if more stocks don’t come in.

Dr Stephen Mugo, the director Center for Resilient Agriculture, said that lifting the ban on importation of GM food imposed in 2012 will allow Kenya to import plenty of yellow maize in turn lead to lower cost of livestock feeds.

"I think it is time to allow importation of GM maize to produce cheaper livestock feeds," said the expert.

40 million bags

Kenya's maize production declined from over 40 million bags to 32 bags last season due depressed rainfall and failure by farmers to access subsidised fertiliser, what has resulted in shortage of the commodity for human consumption and animal feeds.

The crisis has forced a number of farmers to reduce number of livestock they keep to survive.

Buketi Wafula, a poultry farmer in Nairobi, was forced to reduce his flock from 10,000 birds to 1,000 due to costly feeds amid low purchasing power.

He said due to high cost of feeds, the cost of nurturing a single bird to maturity has risen to Sh425 compared to Sh285 last year in January while the market prices have stagnated at Sh300 per bird.

"The situation paints a bleak picture for livestock farmers unless there is serious intervention to lower the cost of feeds," said the farmer.

Proponents of adoption of biotech crops have urged Kenyans to follow in the footsteps of other countries by embracing GMOs.

Manuel Ron, the director at Maizall, a maize farmers association bringing together producers in Argentina, Brazil and the United States, said that the adoption of biotech crops in Argentina has resulted to an increase in milk yields by over 20 per cent.

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