Field report from Malawi
The biggest feed mill in Malawi, Central Poultry Feeds (CP Feeds), was established over 14 years ago. As well as feed production, the company is also involved in interrelated activities, including poultry rearing, and dairy and beef cattle production.
Situated on the outskirts of Lilongawe, CP Feeds currently employs over 1,000 workers involved in its various agricultural activities. Maize is the major raw material used in the various feeds for poultry (broilers, layers and chicks) and other livestock (dairy and beef cattle). The grain, comprising standard and hybrid varieties, is bought locally from subsistence farmers and transported to the mill; the minimum offered for sale is 1 t (20 hessian bags of 50 kg). The company provides cash payment on the spot (around €0.14 per kg), with prices varying according to supply and demand.
Another key ingredient in the feed is soya cake, which is produced after oil is extracted from the raw beans. CP Feeds buys the cake from Sun Seed Limited, a sister company at the same premises, which produces cooking oil (branded Mulawe) for local household consumption. “Other than maize and soya cake, CP Feeds also includes premixes, which are imported from South Africa. These contain vital vitamins and proteins required for good poultry production,” says Shaibu Makwinja, CP Feeds’ marketing manager. The mill also produces feed to the standards and specification requested by certain commercial clients for poultry and other livestock (with the exception of pigs, as the mill owners are Muslim).
In several districts where outlets are not available for the sale of CP Feeds products, the company enters into formal sales agreements with local distributors. Buyers also come from as far as neighbouring Mozambique (particularly Tete province) and Tanzania. Up to 20% of CP Feeds products are sold to these regional buyers.
Free technical and veterinary advice, including training on layers, broilers and even manure production, is also provided to customers. CP Feeds also sells a range of non-feed products including poultry equipment, feeding trays, vaccines and drugs. Over 1,000 farmers have access to the company’s technical team, which is trained in livestock production and provides assistance and expertise in production issues.
With regards to the future, Makwinja states that changes in climate are negatively impacting on the sector as rains are sometimes erratic, which affects crop yields. Quality is another major concern. For example, maize received during April and May often has high moisture content. Moisture is a particular problem with regard to aflatoxins caused by the Aspergillus fungus, which grows on food crops such as maize, groundnuts, and sorghum. Aflatoxins reduce feed quality and may even inhibit poultry production due to their toxic effect.
However, in late 2014, CP Feeds unveiled a new, state-of-the-art mill, which will more than double production from 200 to 500 t per day. To ensure efficiency, mixing of ingredients is automated during the packaging process, and conveyers are used to load several trucks at one time. Besides selling to local, small-scale and larger commercial consumers, the company plans to expand its regional marketing to Eastern and Southern Africa. In addition, around 3,500 t per month of feed is used at the company’s farms, which include breeder, layer and broiler units.
“We produce 150,000 chicks weekly, which are bought by small-scale farmers in both rural and urban areas. These farmers buy the feed, especially growers mash (a type of fine feed), because growth at an early stage demands a balanced diet,” says Makwinja. “Demand for chicken meat is extremely high and we are currently unable to keep up with the market requirements. By using our specialised feeds, the chickens grow faster and are ready for sale within 5 to 6 weeks. Chickens weighing 2.1 kg are sold at MWK 2,000 (€3.45) each. Even chicken parts, which are the cheapest form of protein available, can be bought for a mere MWK 200 (€0.35), which is an affordable meal for most people,” he continues.
Salimu Mkombe, a farmer who grows maize and supplies close to 5 t each year to CP Feeds says the mill is a ready market for his produce. He also buys feed for his chicks (generally around 200-300 birds) and states that there is a strong relationship between farmers and the mill, and others that are in the poultry business. In future, he hopes the company will continue to take into account farmers’ concerns in determining better maize prices supplied to the mill, particularly as the cost of farm inputs can be high.