The Department of Animal Health and Production Services under the Ministry of Agriculture has urged the Gambia government to put an embargo on the importation of chickens and other poultry products into The Gambia.
The Gambia imports about 8,000,000 kilograms of frozen chicken annually, even though there are more than 30 fully operational poultry farms in the country talk less of the countless number of households in the rural and urban areas that rear mostly chickens and ducks.
The country could save valuable foreign exchange if its poultry farms are encouraged to increase their output. And this, according to the Department of Animal Health and Production Services, can be facilitated by also freezing the importation of chickens into the country, for at least the period of time in the year that the local chicks are up for sale and consumption.
“Government should temporally freeze the importation of poultry products into the country from April to September each year during the tourist off season,” states a document entitled Challenges and Opportunities in the Poultry Sector from the Policy Perspective presented by the Department of Animal Health and Production Services during the recently concluded 3rd Gambia Economic Summit held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Senegambia.
Poultry farmers in The Gambia often raise concern about the dumping of imported chickens and chicken produce into the country. This has made many local poultry farms to back out of the poultry business while others have scaled down production. There used to be well over 65 poultry farms in the country but the number has reduced considerably due to the fact that they couldn’t compete with importers of chickens that are dumped in the markets at very low prices. Even though most of these imported chickens are not of good quality, consumers tend to go in for them because of their give-away price, as against the locally produced ones.
Another thing making poultry farming unattractive in The Gambia is the high cost of sales tax, which has prompted the animal health department to recommend that the government should remove sales tax on such poultry inputs as feed and feed ingredients, day-old chicks, hatching eggs and veterinary drugs and vaccines.
It says there should be improved management practices for the traditional village-based poultry farmers, as well as promoting the expansion of medium- and large-scale intensive commercial poultry production enterprises.
The local chicken population in The Gambia is estimated at 600,000 birds, including chickens. However, the chickens are predominantly owned and managed by women and children.
Poultry farming in The Gambia is not without its challenges as the document by the animal health department cites lack of processing and cold storage facilities for poultry products, and limited availability of drugs, vaccines and day-old chicks as some of the factors inhibiting the growth of the local poultry industry.
Even though the country does not produce enough poultry products to cater for its teeming population, the small quantity that is produced hardly yields much dividend due to “lack of marketing opportunities”.
However, this may be due to the fact that there is weak support and regulatory services for poultry operations and management by the authorities. There is also limited research and extension support for poultry farmers, the document says.
Notwithstanding the challenges there is great prospect for growth of the country’s poultry sub-sector, especially with the establishment of the Gambia Food and Feed Industry (GFFI), a feed and rice milling company that is about to start production soon.
“It [the milling company] has a production capacity of about 40 metric tons per day,” the document says, adding that it is expected to produce high quality feed at a reduced rate than what the market is offering.
Another opportunity in the sub-sector is that a foreign investor is expected to start parent stock hatchery farming in the country in the short run. The hatchery farming plant, according to the document, has the capacity to produce 135,000 day-old chicks annually.
There is presently no functional hatchery in The Gambia; as a result, all day-old chicks are imported either from Holland, Belgium or Senegal.
“If all goes well, The Gambia could hatch out its 1st batch of layers and cockerels by December 1, 2011,” the document states.