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Controversy emerges over chicken meat imports to Uganda

13 January 2013

Ugandan meat processing companies have been accused by local poultry producers of having imported dressed chicken, an allegation ‘vehemently refuted’ by representatives of local meat processing companies. Stephan Duyck, the managing director for Fresh Cuts, explained that his firm only imports mechanically deboned chicken meat (MDCM) from Europe and Brazil as a raw material for the production of chicken sausages, chicken ham and chicken roast processed meat products. It is maintained that these imports provide a highly affordable source of protein (US$1/kg). Mr Duyck pointed out that required quantities of chickens for processing often cannot be met by local producers.

According to press reports, it was claimed in July 2012 in a report to President Museveni that ‘about 45 per cent of dressed chicken sold on the Uganda market is imported’, mainly from Brazil. The report maintained that, from 2011 to mid 2012, 728,000 kg of dressed chicken was imported into Uganda, in a context where ‘Ugandans consume about 30,000 kilogrammes of dressed chicken every week’.

According to analysis on Thepoultrysite.com, Brazil’s chicken meat exports in the first quarter of 2012 rose to 974,000 tonnes, 4.5% higher than for the same period in the preceding year. However, Brazil’s chicken meat exports to Africa grew by a staggering 41% to 159,000 tonnes. Brazil is expected to retain its position as the world’s ‘leading broiler exporter… for the foreseeable future’, with a 34% share of the global poultry meat trade. Since 2000, it is estimated that Brazilian broiler meat exports have increased by 281%, up from 815,000 tonnes in 2000 to an estimated 3,315,000 tonnes in 2012. However, ‘according to Francisco Turra, President of the Brazilian Poultry Union (UBABEF), the industry is increasingly directing its export business towards higher priced value-added products.’ 

Editorial comment

The annual report on the Brazilian poultry exporters association for 2009 shows higher poultry exports to Kenya than officially recorded as imports into Kenya. This may suggest that much of this cargo was poultry meat in transit or unofficial re-exports to Uganda.

While exports of mechanically deboned meat and other low-value meat cuts are a growing problem across the ACP, in Uganda issues also arise around the need to strengthen the functioning of local supply chains to better link poultry producers to poultry processors. This would appear to be the most important issue to be addressed, given the potential of the poultry sector to assist with poverty alleviation, both through improving consumption of meats and providing cash incomes from local sales. However it will also require issues linked to both availability and price of feed to be addressed, as well as a range of animal health issues in the poultry sector.

This raises the more general issue of public sector investment in the development of more modern and efficient farming and livestock raising methods across Eastern and Southern Africa. In this context it should be noted that few governments in the region have met Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) commitments to allocate at least 10% of state resources to the agricultural sector. This in turn raises issues related to the strengthening of institutional capacities for the delivery of agreed agricultural policies.


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