Zimbabwe’s new agricultural entrepreneurs II: Poultry

Broiler production has really taken off in the new resettlements. This is on the back of a growth of poultry production more broadly in the country. This has seen a significant rebound as the poultry industry has restructured from large, high-tech operations to a much more diverse set of small production units. While a few large operations exist, including the well-established companies such as Irvines and Suncrest and some newcomers such as Lunar Chickens run by former Reserve Bank chief, Gideon Gono, most operations are much smaller. And this is the segment that is driving the new poultry industry in the rural areas.

In 2014 we did a survey across our 16 A1 and A2 sites across Masvingo province. We found 13 new broiler businesses, and one new egg production business. All were individual household based enterprises, except one group project. These complement the almost universal keeping of (mostly indigenous) chickens for meat and eggs. These operations stand out for their scale (most had around 50-100 birds), and the level of inputs required. Four cases are shared below:

Case 1: I am Mrs AM and am 44 yrs and live in Wondedzo. I started the poultry project in April 2013 with funds from farming. I started with 50 birds but numbers kept going up. At present I have 100 broilers. I employ a casual worker but my husband assists so do the work, as well as children when they are on holidays. Brolier rearing knowledge comes from several sources. My husband qualified as Ordinary Master Farmer. I also attend development meetings, field days and area shows. In the last 12 months the chicken budget was as below:

Input type Amount Cost $USD
Bought in broiler chicks 450 birds 450
Drugs    
Stress pack 900ml 27
ESB 3 900ml 153
Sulphur drug 900ml 45
OTCS 900ml 45
Feeds    
Broiler starter mash 450kgs 342
Concentrate 450kgs 315
Broiler finisher 2250kgs 1575
Transport Moving broilers in and outCarrying feeds 105
Total   2505

I source drugs and feeds from Masvingo town from shops that include Chifefe hardware, Metro Peach and Farm Supplies. Coccidiosis is the most common disease, which resulted in some mortalities. I sold 444 broiler units in the last 12 months. Some broilers were sold locally but most were sold in Masvingo town in Mucheke township, the ‘train market’ and food outlets all over town. Broiler income in the past 12 months is shown below

Market Broilers sold Amount
Masvingo Train Market 250 1750
Mucheke township 100 700
Food outlets 44 308
Local market 50 350
Total 444 3108

Marketing challenges include bad debtors and late debt repayments that negatively affect smooth running of the business. Some transporters charge steeply. Competition is stiff during public holidays at Christmas, Easter and Heroes’ Day. During such times I keep more broilers but try to quickly clear the stock to avoid extra feed costs. The urgency to sell quickly sometimes results in risky buyers easily getting birds on credit but taking their time to repay. Income from my broiler project was used to purchase day old chicks from Mitchells, paying school fees, groceries and buying clothes for the family. Future plans include building more chicken houses and establishing permanent markets which buy in bulk, such as boarding schools and Masvingo town hotels.

Case 2: We started our Wondedzo broiler group project in June 2013 with 25 day old chicks donated by the then aspiring MP for Masvingo North, Mr Marapira; now Deputy Minister of Agriculture. This was a God-send because we had always wanted to venture into a project to raise money for school fees, groceries and clothing for our families. Mr Marapira also provided feed and drugs to cover 10 birds up to marketing. We have not looked back and expanded the project housed at N’s homestead. . At present we have 50 birds. We operate the project on a roster basis providing our own labour. In the last 12 months the following costs were incurred:

Input type Amount Cost USD$
Day old chicks 100 100
Transporting broilers, feeds 75
Drugs    
Terramycin 300g 12
Stress pack 100g 10
Starter pack 400g 14
Feeds    
Broiler starter 125 kg 100
Concentrate 65 kg 49
Growers 150kg 108
Finisher 100 kg 76
Total   530

Inputs were sourced from Masvingo town shops, including Musa Hardware, Farm Supplies and Bilcro. When we buy day old 4 extra chicks are added per 100 to offset mortalities. In the last 12 months we sold 110 broilers as follows:

Market Broilers sold Amount USD$
Local farmers 74 518
Local shops 7 49
Project members 26 182
Sanangwe primary school teachers 3 21
Total 110 770

Profits are shared among members who use the money to cover family basic needs. Problems faced include lack of finance to build proper housing. At present we house the day old chicks in a mobile mesh wire cage. After two weeks we place them in a bigger fixed cage at home. Watering for the birds is a big challenge as water is fetched from Mutirikwe river 2 km away. We want to expand and reach out to boarding schools, supermarkets and food outlets in Masvingo town.

Case 3: My name is Mr M. I work as a labourer on this A2 farm in Northdale with 3 others. I manage their broilers in addition to other work I do at this farm which includes horticulture, managing cattle and a piggery which has just started. The broiler project started in 2013. The farmer decided they could make better money from some of their maize produce through feeding it to broilers and selling meat instead of grain. Another reason for keeping broilers was the quick turn over in this kind of business. It takes just six weeks for a batch to get marketable. A minimum of 100 and a maximum of 700 broilers are kept at the farm at different times from 2013. The last batch had 400 broilers and only 36 remain. Mr M himself does the purchasing of broilers feeds and chemicals. Inputs are bought from Pro Feeds and Masvingo Farm Supplies. Straight feeds such as broiler starter mash are complimented by mixes of concentrates and home grown maize. Breakdown of inputs for a 100 batch of broilers is shown in below:

Input Quantity Cost USD$
Broilers 100 100
Broiler starter mash 4 x 50 kg bags 136
Concentrate 4 x 50 kg bags 148
Home grown maize 24 buckets 96
Transport 60
Stress pack 1 kg 8
OTC 200g 10
Sulphur demidine 400g 16
Total   574

The broiler value chain involves raising them here at the farm and selling meat at their Njeremoto Superette in Masvingo town. I am not privy to selling prices in Masvingo but I think they fetch around USD$8 per bird. Here on farms locals in Northdale and Salem also buy some live broilers at the farmgate at USD$7 each. Some income from broilers returns to the farm as our wages. The four of us earn USD$150 each. Some of the money gets ploughed back into business – purchase of new broiler stock, buying feeds and drugs.

Challenges faced by the broiler business were mostly the high price of concentrate feeds and transport costs to market. Masvingo is more than 60 kms away. Mr M owns a pickup truck. Diseases are not a problem here because Mr M is a former Agritex head with vast experience. Diseases get controlled quickly before they spread. The Ms want to scale up broiler production by increasing numbers in batches from 100 to 200. More broiler pens will be built. They also want to send me for training courses on broiler management.

Case 4: My name is SM from A1 Lonely Farm in Gutu district. We started the project together with my wife in 2013. Keeping of egg layers has improved our household nutrition. We always have eggs for breakfast now. We decided to go into egg production as a way of diversifying our farm enterprises. The idea came from our cousin Mr M who sourced the 6 month old 100 point of lay pullets for us paying USD$500 dollars of his own money. We later repaid him over some months. We also gave him some maize bags in appreciation.My wife and I worked on the project at first but we recently employed a farm worker who we pay USD$80 per month. We built a house for the layers and when necessary collect grass used to spread in the deep layer system we use. Water is available from our high yielding well at the homestead. We purchase some straight feeds and concentrates which we mix with home grown maize at a ratio of two parts concentrate to three parts crushed maize. Inputs for two months are in table below:

Input Quantity Unit cost USD$ Cost USD$
Layers Mash 300 kg 6 / 50 kg 204
Concentrate 200 kg 38 /50 kg 152
Combivit M A 5
Maize 450 kg 10/ 50kg 90
Vitamins 4 packets 5 / packet 20
Total     471

We pick three crates of eggs per day which we sell at USD$5 each or USD$15 per day or USD$400 per month. A crate contains 30 eggs. During school days, Rufaro boarding high school serves as a ready market. Business is down during school holidays. At that time the market is composed of local farmers and few teachers remaining at the school. In a year we gross above USD$4000. Money realised goes to school fees, groceries, purchase of feeds for layers and buying agricultural inputs. Challenges are the high cost of concentrate feeds and bad debtors. Future plans are to increase flock sizes and number of layer pens. We also want scale up our horticulture. Manure from layers provides fertility to the garden.

Case 5: My name is Mrs M from Clare farm in Gutu district. My husband died recently. The project started in 2011 with seed money sent by our son who works in America. We employ two permanent workers for the project and other general farm work. They earn USD$80 per month each. We keep a minimum of 100 broilers and a maximum of 300. Expenses for the last batch of 300 birds are in table below:

Input Quantity Cost USD $
Day old chicks 300 300
Broiler starter mash 300 kg 204
Concentrate 500 kg 360
Maize for crushes 30 buckets 90
Stress pack I Kg 8
OTC 200 g 10
Sulphur demidine 400 g 16
Total   988

We buy day old chicks from Tree Wood in Masvingo town and feeds from Pro Feeds also in Masvingo town. Small amounts of inputs are bought from Chatsworth shops. The major market is Rufaro boarding school where most of the broilers were sold for USD$7 each followed by local farmers, Business is brisk during public holidays. We sold 457 broilers in the last 12 months which realised USD$3199. The family ate 25 broilers and 16 died of diseases. During the rainy season and cold weather chicks develop problems of weak legs due to lack of sunlight. Unfortunately most of the money was used to pay hospital bills for my late husband. Main challenges apart from the loss of my husband include the high cost of bought feeds and the cost of transporting these to the farm. My future plan is to build good housing for broilers, increase flock size and venture into new markets such as restaurants and supermarkets.

A number of themes emerge:

  • Organisation and ownership of the businesses: arrangements are quite varied – from very small operations (25-50 birds) to quite large (400-700 birds).
  • Women are much more involved than in the piggery projects profiled last week. Group efforts have taken off too.
  • Start-up finance has been crucial. This has come from a variety of sources, including remittances, and campaign gifts from prospective politicians.
  • Inputs, including feed and veterinary medicines are important input costs, with links to reliable supply chains essential
  • Cross-links with other farm activities are important – including supplying food and delivering manure for gardens.
  • Infrastructure upgrading is occurring as people scale up, especially building new poultry housing.
  • Employment generation is happening, but on a small scale.
  • Markets are largely informal and local, but some are supplying to urban supermarkets and institutions (such as boarding schools etc.).
  • Links to day old chick producers are key – and the presence of the Mitchell’s farm operation in Masvingo is an essential part of the wider chain. This is a large-scale white owned farm that is widely valued by people across the region, because of this.

This work was undertaken under the Space, Markets, Employment and Agricultural Development project, and the field research was led by BZ Mavedezenge and Felix Murimbarimba.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared first on Zimbabweland

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