With poultry feed prices at a historical high, a successful 18-month project by Sierra Leone’s Leecon Poultry to produce feed from local ingredients and reduce the sector’s dependence on imported chicken feed, could not have come at a better time.
The project, which was partially funded by Invest Salone, a UK Government private sector development initiative, under its COMPETE Salone grant facility, has been so effective that Leecon was able to produce enough feed for its own chickens and sell a surplus of 381 metric tonnes to other local farmers.
Another significant achievement of the project was that Leecon was able to sell 800 metric tonnes of maize, the raw ingredient of poultry feed, to visiting buyers from Mali. This is the first time a Sierra Leonean poultry company has sold locally produced maize on the regional market.
Poultry and fish are the primary sources of protein in the Sierra Leonean diet. However, cheap imported eggs and chicken dominate the Sierra Leonean market, making up almost 50% of imported animal products. The local poultry sector, which is constrained by the high cost of imported poultry feed, has been unable to compete. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain problems led to a shortage of poultry feed. Subsequently, rising feed costs, a consequence of the Russia-Ukraine war, have squeezed profits even further.
Avril Pratt, a consultant with Invest Salone, explained the rationale behind the initiative: “Feed accounts for up to 70% of the production cost of poultry, therefore a locally produced feed would substantially reduce costs and increase margins for Sierra Leonean poultry farmers,” she said.
With maize making up over 50% of poultry feed, it was essential to ramp up local production. Leecon’s response was to build relationships with 1,500 smallholders, supporting them with training and agri-inputs. This included supplying seed and fertiliser on a cost recovery basis and guaranteeing to pay the market rate, which is higher than the usual price paid locally.
Leecon Poultry worked with scientists from Njala University to develop nutritious chicken feed from locally sourced ingredients, including maize, fishmeal, oyster shells, rice bran and cassava flour. Concentrate – a mix of essential oils, vitamins, and minerals – is currently the only imported ingredient. However, work on identifying a viable local alternative is on-going.
Tests with a control group of 150 birds showed that the locally produced feed performed as well as the imported variety.
Baibureh Conteh, Managing Director of Leecon Poultry said: “The grant from COMPETE Salone provided a welcome 20% of our project costs and gave us the opportunity to take a chance on producing our own local poultry feed. The trial has been a great success and we will be continuing production of our local feed. A key element of the success of the initiative is our relationships with maize farmers and our ability to support them for the first time with a dedicated team of company-trained field staff.
COMPETE Salone supports innovative projects with the potential to create jobs, improve livelihoods and increase exports. Those who are awarded grants must provide funds of at least 50% of the total cost of the idea and demonstrate their capacity to implement the proposed project.
For more information on COMPETE Salone.