Namibia is currently facing an unprecedented oversupply of poultry products in the market due to the flooding of imports mainly from Brazil, a position which has seen retail prices plummeting, threatening the sustainability of the local sector.
Players in the sector have warned that although consumers might benefit in the short term through reduced pricing of poultry as local farmers are forced to sell their poultry at a loss as a means of disposing of their stock piles, the situation is not sustainable in the long term.
“Currently there is an oversupply of poultry in the market and stockpiles have forced producers to undersell their poultry, but this can be a short lived benefit to consumers, as producers will start realizing that it is cheaper to stop production, sell out any remainder local stock and import the lowest cost poultry in the world,” Namib Poultry Industry’s, Pieter van Niekerk told the Windhoek Observer.
“Economics determines the long-term effect. If imports are cheaper, more companies want to import more, so fewer companies will produce locally, but unfortunately we will remain an importer of substandard/poor quality protein products.
“Locally produced poultry is stockpiling, while new SME farmers are ceasing production and expansions are halted.”
Van Niekerk said the sector was in support of the impending review of the poultry importation quota by the ministry of trade which was put into effect in 2013 as a means of salvaging local producers.
“Industry fully supports a review on the current measure as it is not conducive for industry growth. Local stocks are high and small farmers are reducing live bird numbers while imports continue.
“During June, government approved the importation of 700 metric tonnes, but I am not aware of how much was actually imported. It is much more profitable to import cheap poultry and sell at high local prices, than setting up a poultry farm and employing people, that is why importers want to import,” Van Niekerk said.
“Smaller poultry growers grew vastly in the middle of 2018, exact figures are difficult to determine, but based on day-old-chicks sold, not less than 100 SME’s are farming with broiler chicken. This means that large and small growers employ roughly 1,100 people in Namibia currently. This figure could grow significantly, if the industry is nurtured successfully.”
He said the country was currently a recipient of cheap, inferior quality chicken imports mainly from Brazil.
“Local producers put a lot of effort in supplying the market with high quality products while trying to give as much options on different types of products. Local producers have IQF that is prepared in such a way that the meat remains tender even after thawing, while there are even fresh options with zero brine.
“Namibian produced poultry also does not use poultry by-products in their feed, which is basically a practice of cannibalism. Also no broad-spectrum antibiotics are used in Namibian produced poultry,” Van Niekerk said.
Asked if the country has the capacity to produce enough poultry to meet domestic demand, he said, “It will always be difficult to always exactly match production with demand, as birds are placed long before they are slaughtered”.
“If imports are high, production will decrease and it could seem as if local production is not ready for the demand. Based on stockpiles, the imports are too high and local production (by all local producers, including SME’s) could easily increase if measures ensured that poultry traders first turn to local producers, before automatically trying to import.”
Quizzed about reports of smuggling of poultry imports into the country, van Niekerk said the information that the industry has regarding illegal imports has been handed over to the authorities, adding that it is up to the relevant officials to investigate the allegations.
Poultry Producers Association Chairperson, Rene Werner said the grouping will lobby for the total ban of poultry imports during consultations with government scheduled for September.
“The planned review of the importation quota should benefit us. The stakeholder engagements on the planned review should allow the ministry to see that we can produce enough poultry products on our own without imports.
“They (the ministry) can decide to totally close the borders to imports, which are flooding our markets, but being part of SACU I don’t think they will be able to, but they should consider a reduction and we hope that government can do that,” he said.
According to the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) figures, Namibia imported 36 000 tonnes of poultry in 2018, worth about N$473 million.