The African continent is not in a prominent position on the world poultry map. Yet a number of countries are slowly moving towards higher domestic production, both in meat and eggs. Market orientated commercial production methods are gradually gaining importance.
By Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Windhorst , University of Vechta, Germany
Compared to its population, Africa is only playing a minor role in the global poultry industry. In 2009, Africa shared about 14% of the global population but contributed only 4.5% to global chicken meat and 4.1% to egg production. So it is not surprising that African countries had a high negative balance of trade with chicken meat. In 2008, 666,000 tonnes had to be imported to meet the domestic demand. The import volume for shell eggs for consumption was much smaller. Only about 32,000 tonnes had to be imported. The main reasons for the comparatively low production volume are the lack of know-how, capital and high-quality feed as well as the political instability in many countries.
Regional meat dynamics Between 1990 and 2009 the production volume of chicken meat almost doubled (Table 1). The highest absolute and relative growth rates were in northern African countries, followed by southern African. The lowest production increase was to be found in middle African countries which together produced only about 71,000 tonnes of poultry meat. A very low income, high poverty rates and an overall low development status are the main steering factors. Figure 1 shows that the continuous upward trend reflects the dynamic development in northern and western Africa. In southern Africa, the increase in the production volume came to a halt in 2002.
A closer look at the situation per country reveals that the regional concentration of chicken meat production is quite high (Table 2). The ten leading countries shared 82% of the overall production volume in 2009. South Africa was in a leading position with a contribution of 26.9% to African chicken meat production, followed by Egypt and Morocco. It is worth mentioning that five northern African countries ranked among the top ten chicken meat producing countries. A comparatively high per capita consumption, a result of the taboo on pig meat, and a higher development status are the main reasons for the concentration of the chicken meat industry in northern Africa.
Modest growth in eggs
Hen egg production grew much slower than that of chicken meat. Between 1990 and 2009, the production volume increased by 1 million tonnes or 68.4% (Table 3). The highest absolute growth rate was in northern Africa with 380,000 tonnes, the highest relative increase was southern Africa with 112%. In eastern and middle Africa only minor changes in egg production could be observed in the analysed time period. From Figure 2 one can see that after a phase of stagnation between 1995 and 1997, egg production in Africa entered a phase of continuous growth. The upward trends in northern, western and southern Africa during the past decade caused this increase. It is worth mentioning, however, that in southern Africa the production volume decreased in 2009.
A more detailed analysis per country reveals that the regional concentration in egg production is similar to that in chicken meat (Table 4). The ten leading countries shared 82.2% of the overall production volume with Nigeria in a leading position. The four leading countries contributed 62.4% to African egg production. Six northern African countries were to be found among the top ranked egg producing countries. Here and in Nigeria and South Africa market orientated egg companies with a qualified management, the use of hybrid hens and sometimes most recent technical equipment can be found. This is not the case in many sub-Saharan countries. Again, lack of capital and know-how as well as a low development status and political instability were the main limiting factors for a dynamical development of the egg industry.
Promising perspectives Poultry products are in an advantageous position because of the excellent feed conversion rate of broilers and laying hens and the fact that no religious taboos constrain the consumption of chicken meat and eggs. They also have the advantage that they need no refrigeration as whole birds can be consumed in one meal, a difference from beef and pork.
So it can be expected that the per capita consumption of poultry products will increase over the next decades, at least in countries with a dynamic economic development and a growing per capita income. This will be mainly the case in South Africa, the northern African countries, Nigeria and some countries in east Africa. However, the political instability in several northern African countries could for some years result in a phase of stagnation in the poultry industry.
It can be observed that market oriented production, in eggs as well as in poultry meat, is gaining in importance. Local breeds are increasingly substituted by hybrids. Local breeds are, however, still kept in backyard flocks. In market orientated egg companies, brown layers are preferred, about 95% of the eggs produced in African countries are brown.
In northern Africa this comes from the close relation with France where brown hybrids were mainly used in egg production. White eggs are dominating in Tunisia and Mali (100%). South of the Sahara, the change from egg production in small backyard flocks to larger production units has led to a preference of brown layers, but also in backyard flocks brown or light brown eggs from local breeds are preferred. It can be expected that this trend will also continue in the future.
Photos courtesy of Viola Holik, Lohmann Tierzucht, Tanzania