Zimbabwe’s chicken meat and egg sectors are experiencing challenges that are adversely impacting the country’s feed industry.\n\nBased on figures supplied by the Zimbabwe Poultry Association (ZPA), The Herald reports that chicken meat output for the January-September period is one percent below last year’s level. That puts the country on course for annual production of 115,000 metric tons (mt) in 2016, which compares with 116,000 mt last year.\n\nWith 75 percent of the country’s animal feed production destined for the poultry sector, the prospects don’t look favorable for the future of the feed companies.\n\nAccording to the newspaper, chicken production has been on an upward growth trend over the last six years, and this helped support Zimbabwe’s policy towards self-sufficiency in meat production.\n\nZPA attributes the decline in output to falling retail prices, so that producers can no longer cover production costs.\n\nDespite building up breeding flocks and hatcheries locally, hatching egg placements are down by 6 percent for the first nine months of 2016 compared with the same period last year, which points to broiler producers cutting back on production. Many small-scale chicken farmers are reported to have left the business.\n\nIllegal imports of poultry meat are exacerbating an already challenging situation for Zimbabwe’s farmers.\n\nAccording to the statistics division of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), chicken meat production in Zimbabwe amounted to just over 64,700 mt in 2013, the most recent year for which figures have been published. Output had been growing steadily over previous years, and had almost doubled since the turn of the century.\n\nEvolving structure of egg sector\n\nZimbabwe’s egg industry appears to be experiencing better business conditions, as indicated by growing numbers of birds in lay - which reached just over 920,000 in May of this year – and egg production now averaging 1.9 million dozen per month.\n\nOverall growth, however, masks the changing nature of the sector. Retail prices are almost 20 percent lower now than one year ago. As larger producers appear to be expanding to overcome the challenge of low prices, many smallholders are being driven out of the sector.\n\nEgg production was just under 30,000 mt in 2013, having shown no real change over the previous five years, according to the FAO.\n\nFeed producers keep brake on prices\n\nThe state of the poultry sector has a significant impact on the fortunes of the country’s feed producers. In volume terms, the poultry sector accounts for 70 percent of Zimbabwean feed production, and this rises to 75 percent in terms of value, The Herald reports. Feeds for pigs and ruminants make up 7 percent and 11 percent, respectively, of the total output in monetary terms.\n\nBecause of the importance of the poultry industry to its prospects, feed companies have maintained prices to chicken and egg farmers over the most recent quarter despite the rising cost of key feed ingredients such as corn (maize) and soybean meal, according to the Stock-feed Manufacturers’ Association.\n\nEarlier this year, challenges in Zimbabwe’s poultry sector were attributed to insecurity in the feed supply.