Counting your chickens before they are hatched?

Hoba, Brukkaros and Mukurob – Namibia’s geological wonders
August 3, 2012
Namibian infrastructure projects in the spotlight – 15 Dec’11–15 Jan’12
August 3, 2012

Text Servaas van den Bosch

In a few months’ time Namibia’s first commercially homegrown chicken will hit the markets. With an investment of N$500 million, Namib Poultry Industries (NPI) hopes to break the monopoly that South African importers exercise over the poultry industry.

Traditionally beef lovers, Namibians eat ‘only’ about eight kilograms of chicken per year. This pales in comparison to our large neighbour South Africa, where a staggering 30 kilograms of chicken meat is consumed per head annually.

“We think we can at least double the consumption of chicken in Namibia by supplying good products and setting up a chain of fresh chicken shops all over the country, said NPI General Manager Gys White at the launch of the poultry project in August last year.

“Initially 250 000 chickens will be produced per week, enough to supply the entire Namibia. This number can be ramped up to 500 000 in a second phase, which opens export possibilities to neighbouring countries.”

Not good news for South African chicken broilers that export brands such as Rainbow and Country Fair into the Namibian market. Although just a small part of the South African industry’s revenue comes from Namibia, losing market share is hardly ever good news for shareholders.

In the past, large Western Cape diary producers regularly dumped milk in Namibia at bottom prices, just to frustrate (unsuccessfully) the emergence of a Namibian dairy industry.

Could the same happen now and is the NPI perhaps counting its chickens before they are hatched?

It’s possible. Only when the NPI manages to put good-quality chicken in the market at a competitive price will we know for sure. However, NMI, the parent company, seems to have done its homework. The chicken broiler company has been ten years in the making and very little has been left to chance.

“Everything is done to ensure maximum food safety and prevent outbreaks of avian flu or other infectious diseases.”

There are synergies with NMI’s other Namibian companies, the very successful Voermeester (Feedmaster) and Namib Mills outfits. In the past years the latter has upped its stake in the food market by adding, for instance, pasta to its range of refined flour products.

Management capacity in the group is strong, as is liquidity, and the new players have the advantage of infant industry protection. Meanwhile the public perception of some South African brands is that they are of inferior quality, which is good news for a new player that plans to produce quality.

So NPI has moved ahead at a smashing pace to put up a chicken broiler farm outside Windhoek on the road to Okahandja. Klein Okapuka has no less than 53 buildings, which include laying houses, broilers, rearing houses, a hatchery, a large abattoir and administrative blocks. Supporting civil works such as roads, pipelines, electricity lines, substations, ablution blocks and water-treatment facilities also all had to be built from scratch.

“The farm will be a state-of-the-art facility where bio-safety is the number one priority,” says Gys White while driving around the different parts of Klein Okapuka. He explains how cars will proceed through dedicated washing bays before entering the farm and how workers shower and wear several sets of overalls before they are allowed near the poultry. “Everything is done to ensure maximum food safety and prevent outbreaks of avian flu and other infectious diseases.”

Large steel frames, erected all over the farm, are being sheeted and the resulting buildings are fitted with top-of-the-range climate-control systems. “At any point there will be 1.25 million chickens on the farm between one and five weeks old,” explains White. “The farm will employ some 350 people directly, while another 600 jobs will be generated for small and medium enterprises due to spin-off effects,” he adds.

The NPI expects to deliver the first chickens to the Namibian market in March 2012.

On 1 November last year the first breeding stock arrived at the farm. “We were extremely excited. We knew that history in the food-production industry had just started,” recalls White. The parent stock consisted of 15 000 female and 1 500 male chicks that were transported carefully all the way from Carolina in South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province. Amazingly, only three chicks died during the 36-hour journey.

“Breeding stock forms part of the first step in the production value chain,” explains NMI’s Margareth Gustavo. “The first phase involves rearing the breeding stock. Males and females are reared separately for 20 weeks. Thereafter they are transferred to the layer houses where they can mingle freely, mate naturally and produce fertile eggs.”

The hens lay eggs for 43 weeks. At 63 weeks they are sold ‘live’ to the consumers in the Namibian market. The eggs, on the other hand, go to the hatchery where they are hatched for 21 days and day-old chicks are produced. These go to the broiler houses to grow, and after 35 days, when they weigh roughly 1.8 kilograms, they are transferred to the abattoir.

According to Gustavo, new breeding stock will arrive in Windhoek every eight weeks to build up the flocks to a point where sufficient eggs are produced to hatch the required day-old chicks for the broiler farms.

The NPI expects to deliver the first chickens to the Namibian market in March 2012.

“We are extremely excited. We know that history in Namibia’s food-production industry has just started,” comments White.

This article appeared in the February edition of FLAMINGO Magazine.

Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia is a high-quality glossy Namibia travel and lifestyle magazine tasked with promoting Namibia to the world. With riveting stories, first-hand encounters and magnificent photographs showcasing tourism, travel, nature, adventure and conservation, TNN is the ultimate and most comprehensive guide to exploring Namibia. Travel News Namibia is published in five different editions per year. These include four English- language editions and one German. Travel News Namibia is for sale in Namibia and South Africa.

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