Livestock farmers are appealing to the government to subsidise animal feeds which they say account for between 60 and 70 per cent of inputs that a farmer needs for livestock productivity.
Due to lack of affordable quality feeds, some farmers are blending animal feed ingredients on their own, yet they do not have scientifically approved formula to determine the amount of protein, fiber, fat, and energy among other nutrients needed to produce nutritious feeds, according to Manasseh Ndahabwa, a nutritionist at ProDev Rwanda Ltd, a company which owns an animal factory feed in Rwamagana District.
This adversely affects livestock productivity, he said.
ProDev Rwanda Ltd started out by selling about 40 tonnes of feed in August 2016, but now it vends between 700 and 900 tonnes of feed per month.
Actors in animal feed industry contend that the high cost of animal feed is largely attributed to high cost of raw materials needed to produce it, and have called for government intervention to ensure availability and affordability of raw materials and feeds.
A kilogramme of animal feeds costs between Rwf200 and Rwf350 depending on the type and ingredients.
Ernest Habimana, Sales Executive at Gorilla Feed, a feed miller based in Rubirizi, Kicukiro District, told The New Times that a kilogramme of maize is about Rwf350, up from Rwf180 in the previous years, while a kilogramme of soybean costs between Rwf450 to Rwf500.
Vital Hategekimana, a poultry farmer in Rwamagana District’s Gishari Sector, and Kanombe Sector of Kicukiro District, has about 2,000 chickens, which consume about 100 kilogrammes per day, amounting to Rwf33,000.
He said feed prices remain problematic, eating into their profits.
“The price of an egg remains the same, and, as a result, the farmer does not get enough returns,” he said.
An egg is sold at Rwf65 and Rwf70, while a kilogramme of feeds is between Rwf320 and Rwf330.
Normally, a layer starts to lay eggs after six months.
Hategekimana said that buying animal feeds from factory guarantees quality.
“When you use quality feeds, you are sure of sustainable produce all the yearlong, with each of your chickens laying an egg every day. But, that does not happen without proper feeding,” he said.
Gorilla Feed’s Habimana said that if a kilogramme of maize costs Rwf140, and that of soybean costs Rwf300, the feed can be affordable.
“If you make cheap feeds, the farmers’ livestock productivity can go down, yet, you have to make formula that gives a farmer high yields,” he said.
The first solution to addressing the issue, Habimana said “is to avail raw materials at a low cost, which will result in low cost of production.”
Gahiga Gashumba, the Chairperson of National Dairy Farmers Federation of Rwanda (NDFFR), told The New Times that for animal feed to be affordable to farmers, the government should subsidise raw materials needed for both local and imported products.
“Also, farmers should produce more of the needed raw materials such as maize which can help them get stems and leaves as fodder for their animals, and sell the maize to factories for them to get feed in return,” he said.
The feeds are made from maize, maize blunder, rice bran, wheat bran, and fish products, and soya or soya cake from India.
Addressing lack of affordable raw materials, Ndahabwa said more efforts should go into consolidating land use to produce enough crops for feed factories to get adequate raw materials.
Availing feeds close to farmers
Gashumba, said that there are still few factories producing animal feeds.
Dr Fabrice Ndayisenga, the director of animal production at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), said the government waived value added taxe (VAT) on animal feeds producing factories in a bid to promote the industry and make the feeds more affordable.
Ndayisenga said that the government wants animal feed factories to have more distribution networks in order to be closer to farmers.
There are about 1.4 million cows, 1 million pigs, and 5 million chickens in the country, according to figures from RAB.
There are four animal feed factories in three provinces of the country, and the City of Kigali. Another one is also being built in the remaining region (Southern Province) to bring the total factories to five.