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– by Ali Shaaban Juma
Some 1500 to 2000 tons of chicken are consumed in Zanzibar, a group of Tanzanian islands, every year. Local growers are unable to satisfy the domestic market. The demand for chicken has increased since the early 1990s, after the government decided to liberalise tourism, and many new hotels were built. The tourists want standardised food items, most of which must be imported.
There are two companies that import frozen chicken and chicken parts in Zanzibar: Farid Supply and Malik Foods. The only local processor is ZANCHICK, but this company relies on imports too. The company was established in 2012 and set up a processing plant in 2014. Christopher Kontonasios, the chief operations manager, says: “Our main customers are hotels and local retailers.”
Currently, there are about 380 hotels in Zanzibar. Half of them rely on chicken processed by ZANCHICK. A whole imported chicken costs the equivalent of $ 2.50. Local chicken costs four times as much.
Quality control is a particularly important issue in poultry farming because the end product is raw meat, which may transmit diseases. Hamad Mansour of Farid Supply says: “Quality control at chicken processing plants and health care for chicken is very strict in the USA and Brazil”. In those countries, government officers handle the matter, ensuring that meat is suitable for processing and human consumption.
Big hotel chains in Zanzibar buy only high quality chicken, so the small-scale local farmers are being crowded out. Their business is not protected, nor do they have subsidies to finance investments.
Tajo Muhammed, a local poultry farmer, says it is “a problem that our chicken are smaller than imported ones. This is because we are forced to sell them when they are only four weeks old, because chicken feed is very expensive.”
Other factors make commercial poultry production difficult too. The list includes the lack or only limited availability of:
- cold storage systems,
- up-to-date hatcheries and chicken coops,
- enough potable water for processing,
- adequate veterinary control and vaccines, as well as
- regulated dumping sites for the remains of processed chicken.
No matter how well they are fed, African chicken breeds are generally smaller than commercial breeds, but they are more resistant to harsh climate than commercial breeds. So far, many women and youth get their income from poultry production in their back yards – but increasing chicken imports are likely to undermine their business model.
Ali Shaaban Juma is a journalist and lives in Zanzibar, Tanzania.