Dorcas Mhungu Business Correspondent
There is a huge market for free range chickens and farmers are not filling the gap, farmers and stakeholders were told at a recent Zimbabwe Free Range Poultry Association field day.
As more and more people are turning to the consumption of organic and indegenous foodstuffs for health reasons, the demand has soared above supply creating a needs gap. Delegates who attended the first Zimbabwe Free Range Poultry Association Manicaland chapter field day at Mr and Mrs Usiku plot in Fern Valley on the outskirts of Mutare were challenged to fill the gap.
According to OK Mutare, there is a shortage and huge market for free range chickens and one outlet can sell a tonne of free range chickens per day and farmers must fill the market gap with consistent supplies inorder to satisfy the demand.
The event was well attended by more than a hundred free range poultry farmers, aspirants and stakeholders from Manicaland and Harare.
Indicative of the seriousness attached to the growth of free range poultry farming, was the presence of financial institutions and service providers such as Agribank, Metbank and Zimbabwe Insurance Brokers, OK and Holiday Inn Mutare.
The field day was also attended by officials from the agriculture ministry, Plan Internatiinal a non governmental organisation that supports rural community poultry projects and Sunrise Feed manufacturer from Harare.
Mrs Regina Usiku whose flock currently stands at 850 free range chickens said she started the project in 2016, motivated by her friend Mrs Sheba Saungweme who lives in the same suburb.
“I started in 2016 after getting inspiration from Mrs Saungweme. The same year, I attended a training workshop organised by Dr Aaron Shamu in Mutare,” Mrs Usiku said explaining how she ventured into free range poultry production.
Her initial startup was three crates of free range chicken eggs which she hatched and got 78 birds of mixed breeds. I now have 850 and the main breeds are Bosch Veld, Koo koo and Australorp.” Mrs Usiku said she also bought mixed breed chicks from a breeder in Waterfalls in Harare and another 60 point of lay hens as her interest in free range chicken farming intensified.
In 2017, she bought a small incubator so that she could hatch and sell chicks to other people as free range chickens popularity grew in Mutare. “Our hatch rate was between 85 and 90% so we became popular with clients.and by the end of 2017 we had 150 layers,” Mrs Usiku adding that her growth target of 1 500 birds was affected by power outages.
The teacher by profession free range chicken farmer said she hopes to acquire a large incubator by the end of the year.
Mrs Bertha Mashayamombe, district head crop and livestock production urged farmers to work as associations and hailed Germany’s sustainable farm model.
It was Dr Aaron Shamu’s speech that stunned and challenged many guests who attended the field day and one delegate shed tears after Dr Shamu’s presentation.
He urged farmers not to sit on their laurels but to establish income generating projects in their backyards.
“A business needs strong-minded and dedicated people. Farmers should have production model for every project and farmers must complete the whole value chain, Dr Shamu who is also Zimbabwe Free Range Poultry Association chairperson urged the farmers.
“We want to create a sustainable chain by training farmers to create a sustainable chain. Although the government has given a budget to free range poultry production, there are no sustainable quantities to motivate financiers,” Dr Shamu added.
Mr Evans Bonde who spoke on behalf of Holiday Inn Mutare echoed the same sentiments. “We are a ready market,” he said adding that many guests ask for free range chicken which the hotel cannot put on the menu because of supply inconsistence.
“And that is why the chef is here,” he said to a roaring applause from the audience.
Mr Isaac Usiku said: “I was overwhelmed. It was amazing. My message to the people in Manicaland is he who dares wins. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, adding that where there is dirt there is money.