The shortage and high cost of animal feeds are some of the biggest barriers to the success of Kenya’s agribusiness sector. Since 2016, the cost of livestock feeds has been rising –a situation that has forced many dairy and poultry farmers to quit their once-lucrative businesses. For many Kenyan farmers, feed manufacturers are to blame for the rising feed costs as there is a perception that feed producers are exploiting farmers while, at the same time, selling substandard feeds to them that adversely affect production.
However, what these farmers seem not to understand is that a lot of variables are at play when it comes to feeding production. In fact, many feed manufacturers are finding it hard to break even. According to reports, some producers have been pushed out of the market.
One of the challenges experienced by feed manufacturers is the shortage of demand for finished products. In a recent report by Feed Strategy, the shortage of raw materials for producing animal feeds remains to be a key concern for AKEFEMA.
The cost of acquiring raw materials for feed manufacturing is equally a challenge to feed manufacturers. The prices of raw materials such as brown maize, by-products of wheat, and soya cake required to manufacture feeds are extremely high in Kenya. For example, wheat bran for which a manufacturer paid KSH. 7 four months, now costs KSH. 24 today. A kilogram of soya was retailing at KSH. 53 during the period. By September 2020, the price for the same quantity had gone up to KSH. 83. Equally, yellow maize, another key ingredient for animal feed, has seen a 20% price increase within the past two months with the cost of a 90-kg bag jumping from KSH. 2,500 to KSH. 3,000.
AKEFEMA’s publicity, marketing, media, and liaison chairperson, Mr. John Gathogo, noted that Kenya’s feed makers are struggling with high costs and shortages of certain raw materials. On the other hand, the demand for feeds is declining as most farmers are finding it unsustainable to purchase feeds due to extremely high costs. For instance, the cost of a 50-kg bag of dairy feed has increased from KSH. 750 to KSH. 1,500 –a 100% rise compared to what it was in 2020. Consequently, low demand for such essential livestock feeds is pushing dairy farmers and feed manufacturers out of the business.
According to the Livestock, PS Harry Kimtai, “The challenge has been the raw materials to produce dairy feeds are not available in the country. These include concentrates such as cotton, sunflower, and soya seed cakes” –The Star. Mr. Gathogo suggested that the “Government needs to allow the importation of GM yellow maize to reduce competition of white maize with maize meal millers.”
The situation is even worse in the poultry sub-sector where farmers are getting it tough as the price of poultry feeds continues to go up each day. A 50-Kg bag of layer feeds costs KSH. 3,400, which is a significant change compared to its last year’s price of KSH. 3,000. One farmer, Ann Ngugu, told The Standard News that the poultry business is no longer as profitable as it used to be decades ago. “I am just doing poultry farming because it works like any other work,” admitted Ann. To her, the feed cost is the primary threat to her business’ success.
What really causes feed shortage?
So, why are animal feeds so expensive in Kenya? What factors are actually responsible for the shortage of animal feeds –fish feeds, cattle feeds, goat feeds, poultry feeds, and pig feeds –in the country? How did we get into this crisis in the first place?
These are some of the questions you may asking yourself as a farmer or feed producer. Of cause, there is no single answer to any of these questions. In this article, I offer my arguments regarding the factors that might be pushing Kenya’s farming industry into the feed crisis.