DIARY OF A POULTRY FARMER: Untold costs to bear in poultry business
As soon as she read the words ‘chicken eggs’ on my permit, she was curious to know where my farm was located and whether I reared commercial layers or Kienyeji chickens.
As I’d suspected, she told me how she would travel upcountry and buy a few hens and cocks from her neighbours, which she would then use to start her flock on the outskirts of Nairobi. This raised a red flag. I’ll get there soon.
Sometime in January, I got an email from one Eric. It read: “It is an offence under the Standards Act Cap 496 of the Laws of Kenya to offer a product for sale without a valid standard mark of quality. We intend to suspend your permit from the database by end of February 2018 if you will not have renewed.”
At first I thought this was one of those money-minting scams used to beguile innocent people to part with cash. Immediately, I replied seeking clarity but never got any response.
I’d put the matter to rest until two weeks ago when I called up a contact I knew at the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) in Nairobi. She confirmed the requirement to renew standard marks every year.
Immediately, I pulled out the file where I keep all my business documents, including government permits. I then realised that my permit number 26069 to use the Kebs standard mark of quality to sell chicken products for my company (Kienyeji Kenya Brand) had expired.
Regular readers of this column recall my ordeal to get my products onto supermarket shelves. One of the requirements was that I had to obtain a Kebs standard mark of quality.
After submitting all the documents — company certificate, PIN, a copy of my National ID card and paying a fee of Sh11,500 for certification, I was asked to wait for between two weeks. An officer from the bureau visited my farm to take some “samples” for testing in their laboratory. She came after six months, noting the test results were satisfactory. I was then issued the certificate. For eggs, they test for pathogens like salmonella and cleanliness.
The standard mark came with a unique permit number. I learnt that products bearing the Kebs standard mark logo without the permit number are considered to be fake and may be withdrawn from the market and destroyed at the cost of the manufacturer. To know if the mark is genuine, one can send an SMS to a given number to verify.
If you remember, I have never used the mark in the original way I intended by supplying products to supermarkets because of diseases, and other challenges that I faced. But one cannot know when they will need it.
Besides the Kebs standard mark, there are other permits. If you plan to keep and breed birds and animals that are classified as ‘trophies’ such as guinea fowls, peacocks, doves, quails or ostriches, you’ll need to be licensed.
For guinea fowls, I had to fill out a form and submit a map to my farm. One condition was to keep the livestock under humane conditions and provide clean water, feeds, housing and veterinary attention. Another requirement was to record on a standard form the production and sales report and submit them every quarter to the Director-General, Kenya Wildlife Service.
In case you also rear dogs like me, you need an annual registration of dogs’ certificate from the Nairobi County Council. Before the permit is issued, the owner is required to vaccinate the dogs against five common diseases namely Distemper, Canine Viral Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parvovirus and Rabies. Once a week, I also wash them using a mild chemical (dudukrin) to prevent ticks and fleas and de-worm every three months.
I told her that she could’ve been dealing with flocks that had undergone uncontrolled cross-breeding for generations. When this happens, the offspring tend to be less resistant to diseases and of low productivity (eggs and meat).
I also advised her to observe strict farm biosecurity (infection prevention) and hygiene practices on her farm. In fact, she promised to attend one of the trainings for beginners at my farm.