By Evans Boah-Mensah-USAID
Ghanaians consumed more than two million locally-produced chickens last year, a new USAID survey of the sector has revealed. This suggests a vibrant market for live birds, amid concerns over the viability and competitiveness of the broiler industry in the country.
In a survey that is expected to provide clarity and hope for the performance of the country’s poultry industry, broiler producers generated an estimated GHC53.6 million from the birds sold, which represents 0.7 percent of the total GDP of the agriculture sector in 2015 and 7.9 percent of the GDP of the livestock sub-sector.
According to the results of the survey, each bird cost GHC35 on average.
When put into context, the number of birds sold, which excludes imported chicken products, is equivalent to the size of 51 football fields. Ghanaian consumers are now eating more and more chicken fueled by a rise in incomes. The country’s per capita income increased from GH¢400 reported in the 2008 published Ghana Living Standard Survey Round 5 (GLSS5) to GH¢5,347 as contained in the latest GLSS6 released in 2014, implying that the average Ghanaian now lives on an average gross income of GH¢14.65 a day.
The study was conducted in 2015 by the Monitoring, Evaluation and Technical Support Services (METSS II), a USAID/Ghana funded project that supports the U.S. Government’s development assistance agency through research and analysis on key national issues. It studied 4,040 poultry farms across the country—more than 90% of the poultry farms in Ghana. This makes the research the largest and most comprehensive study into Ghana’s poultry industry.
The results of the survey, which is anticipated to guide policy formulation and implementation in the poultry sector, show that the domestic poultry meat industry made a gross margin (net profits on variable cost) of GHS 16.4 million, despite the high cost of operation, which include feeding, labour, veterinary services and day-old-chicks, and a seeming threat from imported poultry products.
This means that on the average, each broiler farm earned a gross profit of GHS 13,535 in 2015 (the survey period). This puts poultry farmers among Ghana’s most affluent, as the poorest person in Ghana earns about GH¢1,153 a year, according to figures from the GLSS6.
Dr. Vincent Amanor-Boadu, the Principal Investigator on the USAID/Ghana METSS II Ghana Poultry Survey project, observed that demand for local birds reaches its peak during the two most celebrated Christian festivities- Easter and Christmas- when Ghanaian consumers prefer the tenderness and taste of locally produced birds to imported meat products.
This, he noted, explains the rationale behind the decision of many local poultry meat producers to engage in two production cycles in contrast to global optimal production of six cycles.
“Ghanaian consumers seem to have time around festivals – Christmas, Easter, etc. – to purchase live birds for celebration. Poultry farmers recognize this and produce specifically to meet these demand spikes. This explains the roughly two production cycles seen on most broiler chicken farms in Ghana.”
However, on a daily-basis when time constraints become a key factor in deciding the choice of a poultry product, the study showed that consumers preferred processed meat to local live birds since the latter involves a high consumption cost, which covers the purchase cost, slaughter, and dressing, evisceration, cutting and cleaning.
Dr. Amanor-Boadu added: “When it comes to their non-holiday chicken consumption, Ghanaian consumers seem to signal their time constraints, choosing instead to consume ready-to-cook products, which are processed, more convenient and, hence, attractive.”
This suggests a segmented market for both locally produced poultry and imported poultry products, proving that broiler production in Ghana is not in any way in competition with imported products. As such, the survey findings challenge the widely held notion that high tariffs on imported products is the key to saving the local broiler industry from collapsing under the weight of competition from imported poultry meat.
“If the domestic poultry market was competing with imports, we would have had a lot of domestic birds in the market. But we (Ghanaian producers) sell all out,” he added.
According to the survey, poultry meat farmers were found to be underutilizing their resources, producing and operating at about 50 percent below capacity. Therefore, the annual output of 2.1 million birds produced in 2015 could have been doubled to about 4.2 million birds without new investment into their production capacities, or changing the production cycles.
This suggests that, if the more than 4,000 poultry producers had increased their production capacity to about 90% of their current carrying capacity, annual production would have reached approximately 16.8 million birds, or a whopping GH¢214.4 million. This would have represented 2.84% of the Agriculture GDP for 2015 or 0.62% of Ghana’s total 2015 GDP.
The situation, Dr. Amanor-Boadu believes, can be reversed if broiler producers could find solutions to the challenges that stop them from optimizing their installed production capacity.
Currently, the number of farms engaged in commercial broiler production in the country was estimated at 1,508; with about one in five of the commercial farms located in the Greater Accra Region followed by Eastern Region (18.4 percent) and Central Region (14.7 percent).
However, the Brong-Ahafo Region contributed the highest number of poultry birds produced in the country, accounting for 37.2 percent of the total broiler chicken production, followed by Ashanti Region and Greater Accra Region, with each accounting for 15.5 percent of the birds produced and then the Eastern Region (11.5 percent).
It is worthwhile to note that these four regions accounted for about 79.6 percent of the total broiler output in 2015.