Ex-banker unlocks secret of success as pig farmer

Mr Martin Gachuma (in glasses) after receiving the winner’s trophy during this year’s Nairobi International Trade Fair, where he was rated as the best pig breeder. He says that with five sows and a boar, a farmer can embark on an enriching venture as a pig farmer. FILE

Martin Gachuma, 42, is not looking for a job now but even if he were to be hired, he says, he can only accept the position of pig breeding consultant, “not any other position”.

The owner of Kenge Farm in Muchatha, Kiambu County, Mr Gachuma has built a business that has become a case study for aspiring farmers.

Mr Gachuma abandoned his banking career in 1995 to venture into pig farming. At the time, he was a financial manager with the Standard Chartered Bank.

Today, he has no doubts that he will remain a pig farmer for life. According to him, the returns in this occupation range between 30 to 45 per cent of capital invested. And the money starts flowing in after a maximum of six months.

For those interested in the business, he says, the ideal starting stock is five sows and a boar.

“That one sow will furrow between 10 to 12 piglets. This means that after four months — which is the gestation period for a sow — the farmer will have a minimum of 50 additional stock,” he says. A sow will furrow twice a year to further increase that stock to a minimum of 100.

Mr Gachuma says anyone can take his word to a bank as assurance that pig breeding is a profitable cottage industry which enjoybs both high demand and good prices.

“If you just feed them properly to minimise the snorting noise that pigs make when hungry and manage them hygienically to eradicate the foul smell associated with the venture, you are home and dry,” he advises would-be farmers.

“A pig’s feeding habit is very economical. From birth to market, one pig at the current rate of commercial feeds will consume Sh25 per day,” he says. Generally, a pig will consume an average of Sh2,500 up to the time it is ready for the market. He also says that pigs require minimal veterinary services since they rarely get sick.

If pig breeders want to maximise returns, they have to form small cooperative societies which will pursue best breeding practices as well as increase productivity for effective market penetration.

“That way, we can have drastically lowered operation costs for better returns,” he says.

Currently, a reliable pig breed for a start-up is retailing at Sh30,000 translating into a starting capital of Sh180,000 for six pigs. Other related costs including building a structure for the pigs to live in and this can be done using locally-available material.

“For a struggling starter,” Mr Gachuma says, “you can reduce that starting breed to one served sow, which will only stretch the time to starting enjoying average benefits”. Today, thanks to his savings and credit, Mr Gachuma has 200 pigs in his stock.

In good times, he increases that to 500 but reduces them according to demand in the market.

“My total wealth on daily basis calculated from the breeds is worth Sh2 million,” he says. “My credit worthiness rated from the stocks is Sh6 million.”

“It is an easy occupation, profitable and sustainable. The moment you get your math right, cash flows,” he says.

To expand his business, he intends to start to breed more pigs on a five-acre piece of land in Embakasi, Nairobi.

“My vision is to increase my networth calculated from my herd of pigs to Sh15 million on daily basis by year 2015,” he says.

His love with commercial pig breeding was inherited from his parents who through pigs provided for their family in the 1970s.
“Pig proceeds provided for us and there is no doubt in my mind that my future financial stability is in the same agribusiness,” Mr Gachuma says.

As evidence of his success, Mr Gachuma was judged the best pig breeder during this year’s Nairobi Trade fair. The winner’s trophy was presented to him President Kibaki.

Today, he sells on average of 15 to 20 mature pigs to Farmers Choice Company Limited every month. “One pig to the time of disposing it in the market has attained a minimum of 70 kilogrammes as the net weight for the market. Market price per kilo is Sh195,” he says and invites would-be breeders to do the math.

Market under-supplied

According to him, the market is under-supplied and there is an inexhaustible business opportunity in it.

“The question is not where the market is. The question is where the pigs are.”

From his own research, the big five export markets for pork are China, European Union, United States, Russia and Japan in that order.
Locally, Farmers Choice has been holding seminars to educate farmers that there is a ready market for pork products in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria and India.

Pork is one of the most widely favored meats in the world, accounting for about 38 per cent of meat production worldwide.
Local farmers only need to be empowered to engage in value addition to maximise earnings.

A good start, Mr Gachuma says, would be for the government to develop a pig breeding policy that will see farmers benefit from structured marketing and also set quality standards.

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