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'Pork rules': Ghana's pig industry in 2017

28 November 2017

Efua Okai provides an insight into Ghana’s pork industry, from farm to fork, and the new generation of pig farmer entrepreneurs giving the industry a welcome boost.

You can call it a major national contradiction. For religious reasons, a good number of Ghanaians do not eat pork. Furthermore, due to the widespread, increasing diet-consciousness among Ghanaians, a sizeable number of people avoid pork for diet reasons. But the vast majority of Ghanaians have always loved their pork.

As far as my grandmother remembers, slices of salted pig feet were a constant presence in most soups or stews, and thousands of barrels of trotters in brine were imported from Holland and Denmark. Unlike the poultry industry, the local pig industry has been slow to develop, and even though Pork Show 87 won many more Ghanaians over to pork consumption, there were only a handful of commercial farmers; the huge surge in demand went to the advantage of importers.

Imports of pork products have continued to increase over the years; Ghana produces 20,000 metric tonnes of pork annually, and imports at least ten times that figure. However, the local industry is finally flexing its muscle and, at the current rate of progress, Ghana could become self-sufficient within five years.

Over the last two decades, small scale pig farmers tried to create a thriving local industry to provide Ghanaians with good quality substitutes to imported products. They achieved modest success; fresh pork chops are available at a number of shops and at the traditional markets but production problems have hindered their efforts.

Street vendor selling pork kebabs in Ghana

Feeding the herd

One of the main difficulties for Ghanaian pig farmers has been the high cost of feed. Maize and soya cake are the major feed ingredients used in the pig, poultry and fish farming industries. Maize is also a major ingredient in the African diet, and is also used in the pharmaceutical and brewery industries. Not surprisingly, maize is imported to meet the demands of the pig, fish and poultry industry. Soya meal is also imported, and in a nation which has experienced significant currency devaluations in the last few years, prices are regarded as prohibitive.

Due to the low production levels of the small scale pig industry, pig feed is not produced commercially in Ghana. Most small farmers try to get around the problem of high feed costs by on-farm compounding of alternatives like cocoa pod husk, palm kernel cake, rice bran and coconut cake and cotton seed cake. But whilst these alternative ingredients have been proven to be viable substitutes for ‘regular’ ingredients, hygiene and other standards are poor. The new, large scale farms also produce their feed on-farm but with better managed and equipped mills, integrating substantial quantities of alternative feed products.

Emerging entrepreneurs

In the last few years, a number of young entrepreneurs with better management skills and technology, and access to capital, have entered the industry, and given it a virtually new outlook. CCLEAR (Creating Competitive Livestock Entrepreneurs in Agribusiness Incubator) has trained many young graduates and assisted them to start piggery projects through its agribusiness incubator. An interesting component of this programme is the use of Indigenous Micro Organism (IMO) technology, which uses micro-organisms to break down animal waste to control unpleasant odours and well as help reduce the feed cost incurred by the farmer by 20- 30%. Initiated in 2015, it is the result of a collaboration between Ghana’s Animal Research Institute, the University of Ghana and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and two international organisations with local agencies, Heifer International and Humbeg Farms.

One of the new breed of emerging pork entrepreneurs, Maxwell Hammond, has brought to his Tilly’s Farm organisation a rich academic background of agriculture and psychology, and working experience in project management. Tilly’s Farm, located at Somanya in the Eastern Region, offers a wide range of ‘Pork of The Town’ products including minced pork, pork kebab, pork belly and pork sausages. Among other services, the company runs busy outdoor catering and ‘Party on the Farm’ schedules. It also runs an out-grower scheme that is increasing the numbers of well-managed small farmers in the Eastern Region. Unlike most local pig farmers, Maxwell uses a feeding system based on the weight of the animal. He consults regularly with the Animal research institute, known for its considerable research experience in the deployment of alternative feed ingredients, for what he describes as ‘an effective system that is delivering good results’. He is also in the process of installing a biogas digester to convert the waste generated on the farm to supply its heating needs.

Tilly's Farm outdoor catering

Marketing pork

Most small pig farmers complain about low market access. Isaac, leader of a pig farmers’ group at Nsawam, believes low market access is a disincentive to increased production:

“We sell our products at the markets, and some shops buy from us. But we don’t sell large quantities. We need government support. In Europe, government provides various forms of support to small farmers. Ghana is running a 90% meat production deficit. If we are supported, we can help raise local production levels and save the nation the huge amounts spent on pork imports every year”.

On the other hand, Maxwell Hammond believes that effective marketing should be the prime objective of every entrepreneur:

“At Tilly’s Farm we don’t take marketing for granted. At all. We don’t go to the supermarkets, drop our products and wait for our money. We go to the hotels, restaurants and other establishments and do direct business with them. In response to demand, we are opening a sales point at Osu, in the centre of the capital, where customers can buy fresh products and place orders. We also do a sizeable amount of business online. I understand the challenges small farmers face, but I believe that a good understanding of current market strategies helps to do good business”.

Pork rules

Among the increasing number of dedicated pork restaurants in Accra is Tasty Jerk, one of the busiest restaurants in Osu. After finally finding a parking space, I was surprised to find a large number of patrons enjoying pork dishes, and quite a number of take-away patrons.

We are busy from lunch-time to ten”, the excited manager told me. “We also do a lot of deliveries to offices and homes. You better believe it, pork rules in Ghana”. You bet.

 

Efua Okai

Freelancer based in Ghana, Africa.

 

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