A year ago, Jean Baptiste Musabyimana relocated from France–where he was a financial auditor in a big firm–and returned to Rwanda. Shortly after his arrival, he started a Rwf1.5 billion chicken farm in Bugesera District.
The commercial poultry farmer started out with 10,000 layers in 2016 and today he has 40,000 chickens at his farm in Mayange Sector.
Operating under Agribusiness Solutions (ABUSOL) Ltd, his company, Musabyimana told The New Times that his farm has also an animal feed production unit with capacity to make about 30 tonnes of feed per day.
As recent as six years ago, no such investor was present in Rwanda’s poultry sector, with most players then being smallholder farmers.
Poultry farming needs hands-on skills in such areas as biosecurity, chicken feeds, and veterinary services.
“I realised there was an opportunity in poultry during my frequent visits to Rwanda,” said Musabyimana, who who is the Managing Director of ABUSOL Ltd.
The Director General of Animal Resources Development at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (Minagri), Dr Théogène Rutagwenda, said Rwanda’s poultry sector is growing thanks to people like Musabyimana who have made poultry farming a profession.
Currently, he said, there are about 30 large-scale poultry farmers in the country rearing between 40,000 and 50,000 chickens.
To help increase farm productivity, Musabyimana said he invites experts from Europe who train poultry farmers in techniques to increase chicken production.
“Rwanda’s poultry sector is growing; we are increasingly seeing more and more farmers who are engaging in large-scale farms. Poultry farming is no longer a reserve for school dropouts, even people with advanced education are joining the industry,” he said.
In 2010, the country had 3.5 million chickens in 2010, less than half the target of 7.6 million in 2016, according to the Permanent Secretary at Minagri, Jean Claude Kayisinga.
He noted that egg production increased from 80 million in 2010 to 157.7 million in 2016.
“That growth was mainly due to rearing chickens which give high yields for both eggs and meat,” he said.
According to information from Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), poultry played a big role in Rwanda’s overall meat production, from about 86,000 tonnes in 2015 to about 116,000 tonnes in 2016.
Poultry accounted for 30 per cent - representing 30,000 tonnes - of the total meat production in 2016.
According to the Strategy & Investment Plan to Strengthen the Poultry Industry in Rwanda (2012-2017), commissioned by Minagri, chicken meat production in the country amounted to 4,400 tonnes in 2010.
Chicken breeds in Rwanda are exotic breeds of layers as well as local breeds (Inyarwanda).
The exotic breeds have an annual laying capacity ranging from 300 to 350 eggs per hen.
For local breeds, the annual laying capacity ranges from 40 to 100 eggs per hen.
Dr Rutagwenda said that about 40 per cent of the chickens in the country are exotic breed.
However, he pointed out that there are also medium-size farmers and small-scale farmers that own one or two chickens, representing about 69 per cent of all poultry farmers in the country, and these largely keep traditional chickens.
The president of Rwanda Poultry Association, Jean Claude Ruzibiza, told The New Times that there are modern abattoirs that slaughter chickens which ensures hygiene and quality of meat.
He cited an abattoir owned by a $3 million Poultry East Africa (PEAL) Ltd in Bugesera District, which slaughters about 6,000 chickens per week.
About six years ago, Rutangwenda said the country “lacked animal feed, farmers tried to make feeds on their own, or import it from abroad”.
But, currently, he said, “we have six factories processing quality animal feed.”
He cited Zamura factory in Musanze District, Gorilla Feed in the City of Kigali, ProDev, another factory in Rwamagana District, and an animal feed factory in Huye District, which make chicken feeds.
He said that day-old chicks which farmers need for poultry farming were partly being imported from Belgium and other countries, but most of them are produced in Rwanda.
For Ruzibiza, it is an important step to have hatcheries producing day-old chicks in Rwanda.
“There are investment efforts mainly from the private sector and we encourage more people to come on board and help transform this sector,” Rutagwenda noted.
Kayisinga said the market for poultry meat is growing by the day due to the changing diet habits among Rwandans, adding that “we do not only focus on the local market, we are also looking at the market in the neighbouring countries.”