Enterprising livestock farmers buffeted by dwindling pasture and rising cost of feed are turning to pig breeding, which has been birthed by a growing interest in pig farming and high prices for pig products.
The practice has particularly taken root in Central Kenya where the price of dairy feeds has gone up by upto 80 percent in the last one year. The pasture that farmers traditionally relied on has dwindled as agricultural land competes with real estate and discovery of natural resources.
At the farm, breeders are selling a kilo of pork at between Sh250 and Sh350, while a piglet is being sold at between Sh2,000 and Sh3500 depending on its age.If best husbandry practices are employed, within six months, a pig is able to gain 120kg.
Nearly 100 million tonnes of pork are consumed worldwide and local farmers only need to be empowered in value-addition to maximise their earnings.
Producers are now demanding that the government speedily develop a pig breeding policy and establish a department to oversee its development.
Research shows that pork is one of the most widely eaten meats in the world, accounting for about 38 per cent of production worldwide.The big five export markets for pork are China, European Union, United States, Russia and Japan, respectively.
James Kaigai, a breeder in Murang'a County, said: "We are currently enjoying high demand from privately owned pork processors who are contracting us to breed pigs in high numbers. There is a vast guaranteed and a long term market with handsome profits."
He says the pig has been identified as a source of more than 185 products of commercial value hence a viable business initiative. Farmers' Choice operations manager, Stanley Njoroge says the market is under-supplied.
He said: "We have ready markets besides our traditional ones in Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria and India. The volume of exports that these clients have committed us to, spells major economic favours to local farmers."
A Kirinyaga County pig breeder, Stephen Murichu, said: "When I got wind of this new opening, I commenced large-scale pig breeding in my farm. Today, I supply an average of 50 pigs per week to buyers.
"On average, one pig will consume Sh10 of commercial feeds per day, then some dried foliage, water and supplements and the total per pig adds to about Sh17.
He added that veterinary services are easily accessible within the neighbourhoods and that pigs rarely get sick.To survive the market supply strain, he also buys pigs from individual farmers, fattens them and then disposes them of to the market. He also retains some stock for breeding purposes.
Mr Murichu added: "The beauty of pig breeding is that you need not incur transport costs to the market, neither slaughtering limitations where you are required to have a Nema-certified slaughterhouse on your farm. Buyers usually show up at your farm armed with a mobile slaughterhouse and slaughter men."
Mr Njoroge says Farmers Choice is competing to satisfy demand by supplying 50 per cent of its products, leaving breeders to provide the other half.
He said: "Already, the market that we have sourced requires an average of 500 pigs daily. By September, that tender is projected to double. It is now up to farmers to take advantage of the opportunity presented."
He added that Farmers Choice has invested in field officers in order to empower breeders with education and advisory services. He said that the most popular products are pork, sausage, bacon, smokies, gammon, ham and pork scratchings.
Mr Njoroge said that other products are brawn, which is a form of cheese, liver, chitterlings and blood, which is used to make puddings.
Besides, there is the local market for body parts like intestines, the head, hooves, legs, ears, tail and fur, which are popular in low income estates. The hooves and fur are sold to artisans who make clothing and jewellery, creating more jobs.