Gian Conforzi is the commercial director of Biyinzika Poultry International. He spoke to The Independent's Agnes E. Nantaba about the growth prospects of the country's poultry industry.
What are the key elements in your management philosophy as a manager?
Internally, my team and I try to recruit the right people, develop effective and motivated teams that can work together. Communication has to be clear and in line with the overall objectives. Lines of responsibility should be well demarcated.
Externally, we try to get to know our customers and their environment and understand the challenges they face. As a company we focus on quality, consistency and effective delivery of the product. We also put a lot of emphasis on service and technical support.
What is your assessment of the performance of Uganda's poultry sector?
It is a sector that is growing fast and that presents great opportunities for both small and large operators to build successful businesses. With a growing population and changing consumer trends there is an inherent growth potential for the industry. Ugandan poultry products are very competitive within the region so there is also a great opportunity to tap into the regional markets which have large populations and developing economies.
Uganda's grain prices and production levels are often unstable and fluctuate on the general market. What is your strategy to sustaining production and maintaining relevance in the market?
We have a substantial grain handling and storage facility that allows us to purchase, dry and store maize when it is available, ensuring we have an adequate supply to see us through to the next harvest.
Reports indicate that Uganda is still very much a localized retail based sector for the chicken/poultry sector. How are you working through such bottlenecks?
Our core business is selling day-old chicks and feed directly to farmers. We are not directly in contact with the end consumer. We also produce commercial broilers which are sold directly to abattoirs or to distributors or middlemen who then sell onto the informal live bird market.
However, there are great opportunities to export product to other countries in the region as Ugandan poultry products are very competitive in terms of price and quality.
Unfortunately, the outbreak of avian influenza and the resulting export ban has halted any progress in this direction. We are hoping this situation will improve as neighboring countries acknowledge that there have not been any recent outbreaks and that the country is now free of bird flu and begin to lift the ban.
A year ago, Biyinzika announced that acquisition of Hazard Analysis and critical Control Point license/ certificate (HACCP) from Uganda National Bureau of Standard (UNBS). What impact has this created to your business portfolio?
HACCP constitutes a formal recognition that our standards regarding quality, consistency and safety are up to international standards and are rigorously enforced and maintained. We are continuously vetted by UNBS which keeps us on our toes and ensures that we do not relax in these key areas of production. We have invested heavily in quality and food safety- we have set up an advanced laboratory and a quality and health assurance team so that we can regularly monitor the nutritional status of our feeds as well as test for disease to ensure our breeder flocks stay healthy and free of disease.
You recently introduced the pelleted chicken feed? What reception has it fetched on the Ugandan poultry market?
Pelleted broiler feed has been very well received the market. Farmers who follow good basic management on their farms benefit greatly from the use of pellets and achieve much higher growth rates and a better return from their investment. We have established a loyal and sizeable customer base for the product.
Take us through some of the challenges facing Uganda's poultry sector?
Poultry rearing, be it broilers or layers, requires a basic knowledge and skill set. Many new entrants into the business do so without first informing themselves of the basic requirements, both from a technical and management point of view. When they encounter difficulties they automatically blame the chicks or the feed, instead of looking at their own management and environment. That is why it is important that we as a supplier also provide technical training and aftersales support, which we do for free.
Another major problem in Uganda is the lack of a firm regulatory environment that ensures that only products of an acceptable standard are offered to the farmers. Small scale farmers in particular are very vulnerable in this respect. Substandard feed and veterinary drugs are traded openly and without much control across the country. Farmers will become the victims as this situation will undoubtedly lead to some of them failing through no fault of their own.
How can government and other stakeholders help to solve some of these challenges?
To address the above two problems the government needs to reinforce its extension service, as well as to ensure that only products of an acceptable standard are offered to farmers. In addition, to support steady growth of the sector, government needs to ensure that neighboring markets remain open for business. As the Ugandan sector is the most competitive in the region it is seen as a threat by some of our neighbors who may try and put barriers in our path so as to create an uneven playing field.
What is your projection of Biyinzika Poultry International's operations in the next few years?
We plan to continue with our current growth trajectory in our main activities, as well as adding to the range of inputs that we offer to our customers, such as good quality vaccines and veterinary drugs as well as poultry equipment. We also plan to tackle the regional markets, in spite of the recent setbacks the country has experienced in this regard.