At its peak, Daiichi Farm had 3,000 pigs. The business was flourishing and the future was promising as everything went as planned.
However, in the last one year, things have gone south as the farm now struggles with high cost of feeds that has seen them cut the number of pigs from 3,000 to 1,500. The farm fears that it may be forced to shut down completely if the situation does not change in the next couple of months.
The costs of feeds have shot to a record high on the back of a shortage of key protein supplements like soya, sunflower and cotton cakes, which has seen their prices nearly double in the market. For instance, the cost of soya has jumped to Sh130 a kilo from Sh65 previously.
“We are now struggling to feed our pigs. We even do not know if this business will be there in the coming months. The cost of production has become unbearable,” said Michael Koome, the farm’s director.
Mr Koome said they have now cut food rations from five kilogrammes a day to three in a bid to sustain the business.
The reduced rations means a slow growth rate of the pigs as they take long to attain the slaughter weight, a move that has subjected the farmer to huge losses.
“Our animals have now been compromised in terms of adding weight after we reduced the amount of feeds that we have been giving them,” said Jennifer Koome, a director at the farm.
She said the cost of production has increased by 65 per cent with profit dropping by half in the last one year.
Mr Koome, whose farm is located in Meru, represents hundreds of farmers who have suffered the same predicament in the last two years.
The high cost has impacted not only pig keepers but also poultry and dairy farmers, who are grappling with one of the highest costs of production to be witnessed in the country.
The costs of animal feeds have been on a steady rise since last year, driven by expensive raw materials that have even made it difficult for those who used to make their own feeds to continue.
Just last week, the cost of feeds went up by Sh100 across all the animal meals following a steep rise in maize prices.
The price of a 70 kilogramme bag of dairy meal has gone up from Sh3,400 in December last year to Sh3,500 currently, chick marsh is retailing at Sh4,300 from Sh4,200 while layers is now selling at Sh3,900 from Sh3,800.
The recent jump marks the highest price to have ever been recorded in the country with millers warning that the cost will continue to go up if the current standoff on the importation of yellow maize is not resolved.
The Association of Kenya Feed Manufacturers (AKefema) says the rising cost is in response to an increase in price of maize that has now hit Sh3,500 for 90 kilogramme bag from Sh2,800 amid a scarcity of supply in the market.
Martin Gatheca, a dairy farmer in Naivasha, has downsized his herd from 300 cows to 150 currently.
Mr Gatheca, who owns Naiposha Farm, said dairy farming has become unviable because of the high cost of feeds, which has seen him cut the amount of feeds he gives his cows.
Mr Gatheca said few animals remain on his farm because of the love that he has for cows and to sustain jobs for a handful of workers.
The farmer is at the moment milking a paltry 56 cows from 140 last year. He sold the cows as he was unable to feed them.
“I have had to cut down on commercial feeds because it is no longer economical. Today I buy a 50 kilogramme bag of feeds at Sh3,000 from Sh1,800 previously,” said Mr Gatheca.
The farmer says he has significantly reduced commercial feeds and he has substituted the protein requirement with Lucerne grass, which is rich in protein.
He said they used to manufacture their own feeds but the costly raw material made them stop.
Caroline Njeri, a manager at the farm, said they have cut the amount of feeds they give to their animals from seven kilos to three, a move that has caused milk yield to drop to about 14 litres from 25 litres previously.
“We really need a quick intervention from the government for us to remain afloat. Times have changed and we need to change,” says Ms Njeri.
“There is a shortage of raw material regionally and the government should allow cheap imports of GMO soya and yellow maize to ease the situation.”
Zachary Munyambu, who has been keeping poultry for the last 18 years has reduced the number of his birds from 3,000 to about 1,000 due to high cost of production, and so is Chris Mwangi who now has 200 birds from 3,000 previously.
“ I reduced the amount of feeds that I used to feed them. This means they took long to mature, hence subjecting us to losses,” said Mr Mwangi.
Kenya relies on imports of sunflower, soya and cottonseed cake to meet the needs of seed manufacturing.
However, the shortage of these ingredients and restriction by some of the source countries has created a serious shortage of these major supplements locally.
The Government of Zambia dealt the feeds industry a blow with suspension in exports of soya bean meal and sunflower seed cake last year.
As a result, 50 animal feed manufacturers have closed shops because of the high cost of production and lack of raw materials.
John Gathogo, Akefema publicity secretary, says at least 20 processors have closed shop this year alone with many more lining up if the situation does not change.
“It has been a difficult time for processors because of the high cost of raw material that has forced them to close,” said Mr Gathogo.
The shortage of the raw material within the East African Community means that Kenya has to import these ingredients from outside the region, Mr Gathogo said.
Therefore, he added, the country should allow the importation of Genetically Modified soya and yellow maize, which is the only one that can be found in the market right now.
“There is a serious shortage of important raw material and we need to import them from European countries where they are in plenty. The problem is that they are GMO and the government has restricted shipping in of this variety,” he said.
The government last year allowed the importation of duty-free yellow maize, but the stringent measures put in place has made it impossible for traders to bring in the produce.
The importers are unable to commence the process as they cannot find produce that is 100 percent non-GMO as a requirement.
Feed manufacturers wrote to the Treasury early this month seeking for an amendment to the standards and aligning it to European guidelines that allow a limit of 99.1 percent purity.
“The importation of yellow maize has not started and it is unlikely to start soon because of a directive by the government to have importers ship in maize that is 100 percent non-GMO,” said the processors.
The processors want the government to revert to the previous directive of 2020 where it allowed the importation of yellow maize that did not require 100 percent compliance.