By Chikumbutso Phiri:
As disagreements continue between poultry feeds producers and farmers continue, the later feel they are being let down by the authorities, mainly the ministry of trade and Competition and Fair Trade Commission (CFTC), where they have been directing their grievances.
Coming top on the list is the tendency of some poultry feeds manufacturing companies, mainly CP Feeds which has taken over the retail market selling cheap chickens.
According to farmers that The Atlas Malawi has spoken to, the company sells the chicken at far much lower prices, thereby killing the small scale famer who buys chick, feeds and all the requirements of poultry farming from the same company.
Another issue, according to the farmers who spoke on condition of anonymity, is that CP Feeds has the tendency of selling chicks that never group whenever they are approaching the festive season.
“They do this deliberately to control the market. Chicks that tale six weeks to be ready for the market sometimes take more than two months to grow,” said a Lilongwe based farmer.
A good example, according to the farmer, is last year when farmers bought such kind of chicks in November.
“As is the case every year, we buy chick in January targeting Christmas and New year. But we were sold chicks which by mid January, were not ready for the market despite following all the procedures, and all the feeds and even medication from CP Feeds,” said the famer who said that despite several complaints, they are yet to get any feedback from the company.
The farmers said they approached both the ministry of trade and CFTC, but their case is yet to see the light of the day.
“We don’t know if those in authority have forgotten us, or they are now bedfellows with CP Feeds,” said another farmer.
For example, according to information gathered by The Atlas Malawi, production and transportation costs for feeds to Blantyre for 50kg is around MK7,000.
But CP Feeds sells feeds to a smallholder farmer at MK23,000 minimum and chicks to the farmer at MK850.
Now, CP Feeds spend at least MK7,000 in feeds on a chicken before it goes for a market while smallholder farmers are spending more than MK23,000 on one chicken.
“You can clearly see that CP Feeds pricing is dubious. Actually, what l can say is that the company is stealing from local farmers,” said one of the farmers.
Recently, there have been reports of high level of corruption involving politicians and foreign based businessmen which has resulted into the later monopolizing the market at the expense of the indigenous small scale farmers.
The corrupt practices usually involves immideated senior goverment officials and ruling party officials.
They sometimes become overnight party sponsors.
What CP Feeds has graduated into over the years is that of a whole seller and a retailer.
It sells chicks, feed and medication to small scale farmers at a higher price, and later flood the market with cheap chickens, making it difficult for small scale farmers to make ends meet.
This is done despite that their trading licence does not allow them to do so.
In an interview with The Atlas Malawi, Minister of Trade Sosten Gwengwe confirmed the development.
Gwengwe said the company has been warned against monopolizing of the market, which is against the trading licence it owns.
“Officials from my ministry, director of trade in particular, have been engaging CP Feeds over these issues. We told them clearly that our ministry does not issue hybrid licenses and therefore we can’t allow them trade as both wholesaler and retailer. We told them to stick to wholesale trading”, said Gwengwe.
The momentum, which the ministry took to address the issue died with the passing of time.
Nobody knows why.