After three years of closure, the National Hatchery at Rwanda Animal Resources Development Authority (RARDA) has finally resumed operation.
To ensure a steady supply of eggs and chicks, the government imported parent chickens from Malawi, 2,200 of which are broilers and 2,000 are layers.
Each one-day-old chick on the local market costs Frw1,500.
Malawi is one of the few countries that were not affected by the bird flu influenza. It is also more strategic because transportation of one-day-old chicks is easier.
“We can easily fly in the day old chicks from Malawi because we connect via Nairobi, which is, not the case if we chose to import from Europe,” Rutagwenda said.
The hatchery, established by the Belgians in 1988 as a research institute, was closed in 2005 because it did not meet minimum standards, Dr. Théogene Rutagwenda, RARDA Director General said.
“The hatchery lacked sophisticated infrastructure. It was just not right to use one room for the buyers and keep the chicken in the next,” he explained.
The necessary changes were made, by expanding the rooms, build laboratories, training and hiring more staff.
Market research carried out by RARDA shows poultry farming in Rwanda has a great potential and could turn around many households’ incomes.
A survey conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2006, shows that farmers only consume 5.6 per cent of what they produce, the rest is sold off.
With increased chicken production, eggs and chicken prices could reduce.
While consumers buy an egg produced by local chicken at Frw120, those who prefer eggs from layers buy at Frw75 each.
“I believe that the prices of eggs will soon go down,” Rutagwenda explained.
The current scarcity of eggs is partly because local breeds are less productive than the exotic ones, information from Rarda indicates.
Data from the National Hatchery shows that while a local chicken produces 60 eggs per year, layers generally produce between 250 and 300 eggs annually.
The scarcity of chicken was exacerbated when government banned importation of poultry products following an outbreak of bird flu in 2005, in other countries.
A number of measures were established to disseminate information about the virus under a task force that was led by Dr. Rutagwenda.
The Centre for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) Atlanta and the Norwegian University helped in the campaign.
After fully confirming that there was no more bird flu in the country, the National Hatchery was opened in March this year, and today it is well equipped with the help of CDC Atlanta.
“Our lab is now well equipped for testing and protection and in case of any influenza attack, we can identify the infection in the shortest time possible,” Rutagwenda said.
Rutagwenda said he is very optimistic that by the end of this year, more farmers will be engaged in poultry farming.
Individual Rwandans import about 60 per cent of their chickens from Uganda. Data from RARDA indicates that by June 30th, 94,500 day-old chicks, 655,350 eggs and 3.2 tonnes of dressed chicken had been imported.