Livestock Research for Rural Development 22 (5) 2010 Notes to Authors LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Opportunities and challenges for the Botswana poultry industry in the 21st century: a review

J C Moreki

Department of Animal Production, Ministry of Agriculture, Private Bag 0032, Gaborone, Bostwana


This paper set out to evaluate the performance of Botswana’s poultry industry for a 10 year period (i.e., from 1998 to 2008) with a view to highlighting opportunities and challenges. Since its inception in the early 1980’s the poultry industry has grown to significant levels and employs about 4500 people, the majority of whom are women. The industry employs more people than the mineral sector. Currently, the value of the poultry industry (excluding ostriches) is estimated to be P1 billion (US$300 million). This indicates that the industry is playing a significant role in the country’s economy.


Opportunities in the industry are in breeding, further processing of products and pullet rearing. The main challenges of the industry include lack of slaughter facilities for small-scale broiler producers, unorganized supply of poor quality feeds and stock, delayed allocation of land by the Land Boards and inadequate extension service. To overcome these constraints, government intervention is required. Despite these constraints, the industry has grown and continues to grow robustly as epitomised by high per capita consumption values.

Key words: Chicken meat, further processed, per capita consumption, table eggs


Of all livestock reared in Botswana, poultry (mainly chickens) is the most widespread. Almost every family owns chickens, which provide a valuable source of family protein and additional income. However, officially beef production accounts for the largest proportion of the agricultural sector's contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) though this is doubtful given the robustness and level of sophistication of the commercial poultry industry. The poultry industry is one of the major agricultural industries in Botswana and its value is estimated to be P1 billion (US$300 million).


Globally, the poultry sector is characterized by faster growth in consumption and trade than any other major agricultural sector. Structural changes in poultry production and marketing have been driven by the growing demands of urban markets. While the majority of poultry in developing countries are still kept by smallholders, a strong and internationally linked poultry industry has evolved by utilizing economies of scale and technology. Experiences in recent years have shown that smallholder poultry production systems can offer a useful entry point for development programmes addressing extreme poverty and food insecurity, especially where family poultry and small commercial flocks are the domain of women (Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO 2008).


Commercial poultry production in Botswana has developed rapidly during the past thirty years, and chickens have become of great importance to the country's agricultural economy. As a result, the industry contributes a large portion of the country’s supply of animal protein. The development of the industry is attributable in large part to the advisory work that has been carried on for many years and which in more recent years, has been significantly extended (Animal Production Annual Report 1985). The industry’s growth was hastened by the establishment of the then Financial Assistance Policy (FAP) scheme in 1982, which had two main objectives: employment creation and economic expansion or diversification (Ministry of Finance and Development Planning 1989). The FAP scheme endeavoured to address gender imbalances by giving women more grant (15%) than men. In FAP, one could obtain up to 90% grant depending on the number of jobs created and the location of the business with the rural areas given more grants than urban centres.


Currently, Botswana is self-sufficient in both table eggs and chicken meat, contributing not only to food security but also to rural employment (Anon 2008). However, the country imports virtually all the pullets (young layers) from neighbouring countries, notably the Republic of South Africa (RSA) and Zimbabwe. There are only two hatcheries in Botswana which can produce about 95% of the country’s day old broiler chick (DOC) requirements, indicating that 5% of the DOCs are still imported. According to Kelebemang (2008), the industry in 2008 employed about 4500 people (the majority being women) compared to 3050 in 2007. This represents an increase of 47.5%. The objective of this review is to highlight the performance of the poultry industry with a view to identifying the opportunities and challenges facing the industry.


Main poultry production systems 

As in most developing countries, the main poultry production systems in Botswana include family poultry (also referred to as backyard or indigenous system) and commercial system. The commercial system can be further categorized into small-scale, medium-scale and large-scale with modern technology. In Botswana, small-scale, medium-scale and large-scale enterprises vary in size from 100 to 20 000, 20 001 to 50 000 and >50 000 birds, respectively. In family poultry production, birds are mostly of local or native types (indigenous) that roam the villages or farms freely in search of feed, whereas in the commercial system exotic and high producing birds are intensively reared and fed complete feeds. Over 90% of eggs and meat come from medium and large-scale commercial farms while the remainder comes from small-scale farms.


According to Shaner et al (1982), the term “small-scale'' refers to those operations in which the farmers frequently have difficulty obtaining sufficient inputs to allow use of the technology available to medium-scale and large-scale farmers. Small-scale enterprises are found mostly in the rural villages where production inputs are difficult to obtain and marketing outlets are not well organised. In contrast, large-scale enterprises are concentrated along the railway line and in urban centres where there is access to production facilities and marketing outlets.


Per capita consumption of poultry meat and eggs 

In 2008, the per capita consumption of poultry meat and table eggs was estimated to be 39 kg and 67.2 dozen eggs per person per year, respectively (Table 1). From 1998 to 2008, on average per capita consumption of poultry meat and eggs increased by 2.84 kg and 2.92 eggs per person per year, respectively. It is clear from Table 1 that per capita consumption of meat declined significantly in 2005 due mainly to outbreak of avian influenza in ostriches in Zimbabwe and RSA which resulted in imports of broiler chicks being banned from the two countries. An outbreak of Newcastle disease (NCD) in Botswana and RSA also contributed to the decline. The decline in per capita consumption of eggs observed in 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2006 can be attributed to outbreaks of NCD in Botswana and RSA, as well as, avian influenza in RSA and Zimbabwe (Poultry Annual Report (PAR) 2000, 2004, 2005).

Table 1 Per capita consumption of meat and eggs


Per person per year

Poultry meat

Number of eggs


































Source: Department of Animal Production 2010

The performance of the industry 

Egg production


As shown in Figure 1, egg production increased over time with the highest production achieved in 2002.

Figure 1.  Egg production from 1998 to 2008

However, there was a decline in 2004 due to Avian Influenza outbreak in RSA and Zimbabwe in 2003 which resulted in a ban of poultry and poultry products into Botswana. Also, there was an outbreak of NCD in Botswana in 2004 (PAR 2005; Moreki 2006). The ban affected imports of pullets from neighbouring countries. For the first time, 60 000 dozen eggs were exported to Namibia in 2006. In 2008, egg production was estimated to be 9 558 100 dozens. From 1998 to 2008, egg production increased by on average 515432.27 dozen eggs per year.


It is clear from Figure 2 that egg imports declined over time. There have not been imports of eggs for the past five years, i.e. 2004 to 2008.

Figure 2.  Egg imports from 1998 to 2008

This indicates that the country is self-sufficient in table eggs. The increased egg imports in 1999 and 2003 were ascribable to outbreaks of NCD and avian influenza. As Botswana depends heavily on RSA for its supply of pullets, the ban that was placed on poultry products’ imports from RSA resulted in few pullets being imported, thus giving rise to decreased egg production in the country.


Meat production


Chicken meat production increased linearly over time and the rapid increase is observed from 1997 to 2004 (Figure 3).

Figure 3.  Chicken meat production in tonnes from 1998 to 2008

Thereafter, a decline occurred due to the outbreak of avian influenza in ostriches in Zimbabwe and RSA. This indicates our dependency on neighbouring countries for point of lay pullets. In 2008, chicken meat production was estimated to be 66086 tonnes. From 1998 to 2008, chicken meat production increased by on average 4930.82 tonnes per year.


Poultry meat imports 

The poultry meat imports are given in Table 2. It is clear from Table 2 that the majority of the imports were further processed chicken meat (FPC) and turkey meat. This probably indicates that the industry should diversify. It is perhaps time to start encouraging further processing of poultry meat and turkey production in the country. This should result in creation of jobs, especially in the rural areas where unemployment levels are high.

Table 2.  Poultry meat imports from 2003 to 2008




Guinea fowl














































Source: Poultry Annual Reports 2004, 2007


Challenges to commercial poultry production 

Commercial production, especially small-scale poultry enterprises are faced with many challenges including:








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Received 6 March 2010; Accepted 8 March 2010; Published 1 May 2010

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