Zimbabwe's poultry industry is not happy with government's decision early this month to lift a ban on poultry imports wanted the trade restriction to stay in force until it recovers from a crisis that dragged production down, triggering an acute shortage of poultry and meat products.
The ban covered poultry and dairy products, meat, stock feeds and live animals. Local players say the move is ill-timed, and threatens to erode the capacity gains the industry had achieved during five months of market protection.
Solomon Zawe, Zimbabwe Poultry Association chairman, said the import ban had boosted local production capacity to 75%, from around 10% in March when the trade restriction was imposed “to safeguard consumer welfare”.
Zawe said producers had managed to acquire new incubators, which helped the industry to increase monthly egg output to three million eggs and to resume exports.
By the beginning of the month, weekly shipments had risen to 500 000 eggs. “The industry had not realised the full benefits of the ban,” Zawe said. “We need a level playing field, we are not allowed to use GM feeds in our livestocks when the country is importing GM livestock feeds, which are cheap and have 30%-40% bran solution.”
Early this month, government announced it had restored imports of poultry, dairy, stock feeds and animals and promised to intensify the use of sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) to ensure “Zimbabwe does not become a dumping ground for cheap sub-standard products”.
Zawe said this would not be enough to protect consumers and the industry as competition for orders is largely dependent on price. According to him, the lifting of the import ban has opened the market to low-cost genetically modified (GM) chickens from South Africa and Brazil, making it difficult for local players to compete for orders.
He said the cost of producing poultry products was significantly higher in Zimbabwe owing to the country’s high cost of capital to finance operations and the use of generator power to make up for unscheduled power cuts.
“We were expecting to increase output next month, but we are no longer sure about the demand of our products. We are not sure by how much the reintroduction of imported poultry and meat products will affect the demand of our products.”