A new study has revealed the extent to which dairy farmers in Tanzania are under-served by the feeds manufacturing sector, which despite having adequate capacity, is operating at only 50% of installed capacity. On average, dairy feeds account for just 4% of what is produced by feed manufacturers in Tanzania, with poultry feeds production dominating (96%) the sector.
According to the study, ‘An evaluation of the compound feeds manufactured in Tanzania’, maize is the most commonly used input in animal feeds comprising over half of the inputs used in a sector that lacks statutory regulation. Surprisingly, product standards seem to be satisfactory to farmers; all of which show there is opportunity for growth in the animal feed industry.
The study was conducted by Alexander Geerts, a student researcher with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) graduate fellowship program as part of his MSc degree at the University of Reading in the UK. The study is part of on-going research and development efforts to transform Tanzania’s smallholder dairy value chains over the next decade under the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, locally referred to as ‘Maziwa Zaidi’. The Program, which is led by ILRI, seeks to improve food and nutritional security and to reduce poverty in developing countries through research for efficient, safe and sustainable use of livestock.
The study sought an in depth understanding of the different feed ingredients, the sources, production processes, distribution and use of commercial animal feeds in Tanzania and to identify the main actors in the sector and how they interact. The study also wanted to evaluate the relationship between animal feed price and quality; and to assess variations in the nutrient content of feeds. It went a step further to identify constraints faced by the animal feed sector and suggest possible solutions.
Weak regulation, limited access to credit
Some of the constraints identified in the sub-sector include weak regulatory policies, limited access to credit for manufacturers, lack of infrastructure and absence of regulation and monitoring; all of which have contributed to presence of low quality and counterfeit feed products in the market.
However, the study also found that many growth opportunities exist in the feed sub-sector, as most feed milling factories operate below the installed capacity. This offers an opportunity to improve the quality and quantity of animal feeds produced in Tanzania that will allow feed millers absorb increasing demand for commercial feeds from farmers.
As part of improving the composition of feeds, the study recommends exploring the use of non-traditional and locally available feed sources. The industry’s current dependence on maize as the main component for feeds, make it vulnerable to changes in maize yields which depend on rain patterns. Climate change is also likely to lead to variation in supply of maize which will affects the retail price of feeds. According to the study, feed manufacturers should consider the use of is soybean, which has a high protein and oil content compared to other plant protein sources and could cut dependency on maize and fish meal, which are both highly volatile products in terms of supply and price.
The study also calls for the development of customised solutions, such as credit schemes and savings models that provide flexibility, responsiveness and self-regulation. It advocates for greater investment in infrastructure that can help improve feeds quality such as laboratories and use of qualified personnel in the manufacturing processes to enhance quality control in the sub-sector. Farmers’ knowledge and training in livestock nutrition and management is also highlighted as key in helping them to develop feeding strategies for improved animal performance and income.
The study calls for more research into the effects of seasonal variation in raw material availability and composition of feeds in the country. Such efforts should also aim to develop or compile feed databases that will form a basis for formulating appropriate rations based on locally available feed ingredients for use by the industry and for developing and supporting the rapid methods for assessing feed quality.
The study also found that there is a pressing need for ‘systems of formal regulations and guidance, which comply with internationally accredited standards.’ These would need monitoring through research, training and certification and quality and feed safety assessments.
Words by Mercy Becon, Tanzania