The government plans to add 4 million chickens by 2023 to its poultry sector which currently has about 7 million . The move will see eggs increase by 143%, the Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), Dr. Gerardine Mukeshimana has said.
The Minister was speaking last week during a high-level dialogue between government institutions, development partners, and members of Rwandan Parliament on how to achieve farming targets and economic development.
Mukeshimana said the move was intended to scale up the livestock sector, especially chickens, which have more proteins and rapidly contribute to improved nutrition among Rwandans.
Figures from MINAGRI show that in 2010, the country had 3.5 million chickens while egg production increased from 80 million in 2010 to 157.7 million in 2016 amounting to 7,974 tonnes.
These figures imply that on average, a Rwandan ate about seven eggs per year in 2010, or half an egg per month, which increased to 13 eggs in 2016, about one egg per month, based on Rwandan population which was estimated at over 11 million as per figures from National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR). But, this consumption level is still low.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), increased egg production and consumption in the developing world could significantly improve food and nutrition security, especially for growing minds (children).
Eggs are an inexpensive source of high-quality protein, essential vitamins, and minerals that are needed for a healthy diet and a healthy life, FAO says.
Depending largely on the countries’ levels of wealth, annual consumption of eggs ranges from as low as 300 grammes per person in some African countries to 19.1 kilogrammes in Japan, according to FAO’s statistics for 2012.
Poultry farmers like Péragie Nirere from Nyagatare District, say that what they need to optimize in terms of productivity is quality chicken breed, and feed as well as safety for their chickens. But, the feed is expensive compared to the returns on investment for a farmer as a kilogramme of feed costs between Rwf310 and Rwf350.
Flexible extension models for chicks, feed distribution
In line with reducing the cost of rearing chickens for a farmer, Minister Mukeshimana said that there is a company which is training people who will be rearing the chicks up to six months, after which local farmers will buy them.
“We are working with people who produce day-old chicks so that we set up a system which will allow a smallholder farmer to get the chicks after six months for them to be able to spend less money rearing the chicks, as after three months, they can get yields,” she said.
In Rwanda, chicken breeds include exotic breeds of layers as well as indigenous breeds
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.
About 40 per cent of the chickens in the country are exotic breed, and the government wants to increase egg production through high rate of such breed.
MP Théodomir Niyonsenga said that the big problem is that raising these chickens up to the period they start giving yields to a farmer is expensive, especially because of costly feeds.
“Even though chickens are increased, it will still be costly for them to raise them, or sell produce at low price vis-à-vis their investment,” he said calling for affordable feed to farmers.
Mukeshimana said the ministry was working with chicken feed producers so that they open many selling points in the country and be able to produce feeds on a large scale, which will reduce the cost of production and easy access to farmers.
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.
It accounted for 30 per cent - representing 30,000 tonnes - of the total meat production in 2016. In 2010, poultry produced only 4,400 tonnes, figures from MINAGRI show.
As per the fourth Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV4) conducted by National Institute of Statistics (NISR) for 2013/2014, goats, cattle and chicken remain the most commonly owned types of livestock in Rwanda, at 51%, 50% and 46% respectively of about two million livestock-raising households.
Statistics from RAB show that livestock sector generated some Rwf224 billion in 2016, representing 3.6% of the value of the country’s all final goods and services (GDP) in 2016.