Many crave those scrumptious chicken wings but the entire country is in the grips, again, of the unending troubles of the chicken industry
“Let us just import the wings from South Africa,” leading poultry industry player in Botswana, Abdul Satar Dada, says in an interview. “Afterall, we import everything, so let us just import.”
His view is motivated by the fact that if you walk into a leading chicken franchise in Botswana, including Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Chicken Licken among others, chances are that you will not get any chicken wings. That has been the case since May this year.
The Business Weekly sought to establish reasons for the shortage of hot wings in Botswana and if supply disruptions were an issue, lack of capacity by Batswana suppliers was the matter, whether it is a policy issue or simply preference by the franchises to buy from South Africa.
To that end, an enquiry was sent to the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security where the agricultural economist in the Department of Agribusiness Promotion, Onkgopotse Ramogapi, told The Business Weekly & Review that government is aware of the shortage of wings. “Importation of all chicken is administered through the Poultry Liaison Committee, which is made up of producers, distributors, chain stores, franchises and all other relevant industry players,” Ramogapi explained by email. “This Committee makes recommendations on imports based on availability of local produce.”
He added that the government is trying to hand-hold the local chicken producers to meet demand. “Government is aware that franchises rely on South Africa for the supply of their specialised chicken cuts such as wings which the local industry cannot meet,” he said. “Government continues to engage them to see how they can capacitate local producers to produce according to their specifications. Most franchises continue to support the local producers, especially for whole chickens.”
Ramogapi confirmed that save for where the local suppliers cannot meet demand, the government does not allow importation of chicken products at the moment. “As a principle, Botswana does not allow chicken imports except in situations where the local producers are not able to supply,” he noted. “The ministry issues import permits only in situations where the local industry has indicated their lack of capacity to supply the requested products.”
Asked about importation from South Africa and its impact on development of the local chicken industry, Ramogapi said product specifications of franchises are often expensive and difficult to meet because they require substantive investment. But in some instances, such investment would not make economic sense because stores of a particular franchise are not many enough, he added.
POLICIES REGULATING POULTRY INDUSTRY
When The Business Weekly & Review asked about existing policies that regulate poultry farming in Botswana, Ramogapi answered: “Government uses the Control of Goods, Prices and Other Charges Act to regulate the importation of chicken to ensure that for developmental purposes the local industry is cushioned against imports.”
In order to empower poultry farmers in Botswana, he added, the government is also implementing a poultry value chain that identified a number of interventions that should be undertaken to develop the sector in 2015.
KFC, CHICKEN LICKEN RESPOND
Reached for comment on the matter, Kentucky Fried Chicken took the opportunity to apologise to its customers for the shortage of wings but promised to rectify the situation by getting a local supplier to meet the shortfall. “Over the past few months, the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) sector has experienced a global shortage of chicken wings,” the General Manager of KFC Botswana, Wayne Thoresson, said.
“KFC Botswana is currently in the process of on-boarding a local supplier that can meet the global KFC quality and safety specifications that are synonymous with the KFC brand. Unfortunately, this process has taken longer than we anticipated and for this we apologise. We are nearing the end of the approval process and will have KFC wings back on our menus for our customers’ enjoyment shortly.”
The Chicken Licken franchise in Botswana is run by F. Ismail Group (Pty) Ltd. The company’s Managing Director, Faizel Ismail, said the disruption was as a result of the bird flu outbreak in South Africa, which disrupted supply. As the same time, government had effected a ban on chicken products importation which affected supply. Ismail said they have engaged the government and a solution has been found. “Things will be back to normal,” he said.
LOCAL POULTRY FARMERS SPEAK OUT
A poultry farmer in Botswana says there are capacity issues that the local industry must rectify before it can hope to supply franchises sufficiently. According to this farmer, a middle-aged woman, one of the requirements to supply retailers is a barcode on local products if they should be taken seriously. Speaking in an interview, she raised a need for local products to be certified by Botswana Bureau of Standards (BoBS) for quality assurance and consistency.
Yet this farmer, who asked to remain anonymous, queried rhetorically: “Are we going to be able to produce chickens to meet their timelines?” She also asked if Batswana are able to work together to stagger their quantities in order to meet demand by retailers. For the moment, it seems until this and other questions are answered, craving that lip-smacking taste of hot wings will continue.