Putting the “business” into agribusiness in Afghanistan

Story by Terry Hutchins, Civilian Expeditionary Workforce with Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team 5

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Victoria Burke with the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce, speaks with Mr. Hikmat, a local business owner, in a discussion regarding his poultry feed production in Kandahar Province, Mar. 13, 2013. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Lt. Col. Dallas Kratzer)

KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan–The production of livestock is very important to the majority of Afghans whose livelihoods are dependent on agriculture. The number of cattle, sheep, goats and poultry reared in Afghanistan is 3.7 million, 8.8 million, 7.3 million and 12.1 million respectively. As an example, on an average marketing day,  the outdoor livestock market located within Kandahar province will see 4,200 sheep, 700 goats and 1,500 cattle sell within a few hours, according to the Afghanistan Livestock Census: 2002-2003.

Kentucky’s Agricultural Development Team number 5 recently spent a successful day evaluating the attributes and economic potential for the Hikmat Feed Factory located in Kandahar City.   The team is charged with the responsibility of assisting with agricultural development within Kandahar Province.

The Hikmat Feed Factory is a family owned business, operated by the owner, Abdul Baqi Hikmat, his son and 14 employees. During the visit, the ADT 5 team evaluated the feed facility for quantity of feed being produced; quality of the feed ingredients and proper ration formulation, product pricing and marketability.

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Staff Sgt. John Hall and Spc. Rachel Fox of the Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team 5 speak with an Afghan youth at a local business in Kandahar Province, Mar. 13, 2013. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Lt. Col. Dallas Kratzer)

“There is a lot of opportunity here,” said Maj. James Hatfield, ADT 5 agriculture chief. “Mr. Hikmat has an impressive amount of knowledge and creates a valuable product.  We need to leverage our connections to farmers to create a link between quality feed and animal health.  This link will help increase livestock health and the demand for feed.  My hope is that this will also create a demand for more produce sold, to create more feed, thus creating a sustainable cycle between feed factories, producers, and livestock traders.”

The team found a well managed feed mill with a knowledgeable nutritionist; Hikmat is a university trained animal nutritionist with a PhD in animal nutrition from Kabul University.  The small factory specializes in poultry feeds and produces a pelletized chick starter, layer mash, finishing feed and breeder feed. The average cost is $19 per 100 pounds of feed which is 17 percent less than the imported alternative from Pakistan. At present the imported feeds dominate the market. The small provincial mill also produces feed for ruminants, sheep, cattle and goat feed which is a non-pelletized blend that sells for $15 for a 100 pound bag.

The feeds are a blend of 20 input ingredients that are sourced from local traders and industry by-products. The ingredients include: corn, wheat, rice millings, rice hulls, waste raisins and figs, chick pea, dried sesame cake, peanut hulls, dried bread and macaroni waste, cotton seed cake and bone meal.

Through perseverance, Hikmat and son have taken .05 percent of the poultry market nationally and almost 100 percent of the ruminant feed market in Kandahar city.  However, Hikmat wants to at least double his output.  He feels that his product is not well known beyond the city limits and he would like to move feed out into the regions.  This is where the ADT 5 saw an opportunity to help both the suppliers and farmers come together to achieve wins for both of them.

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Members of Kentucky’s Agribusiness Development Team 5 have tea with Mr. Hikmat to discuss the types of feed and potential markets in the Kandahar region, Mar. 14, 2013. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Capt. Forrest Holdsworth)

Following the interview with Hikmat, the Kentucky team created an action plan with the objective of broadening the customer base for the feed mill and at the same time introducing animal nutrition concepts to Afghan para-vets, Extension agents and eventually to livestock producers. The team selected Zharay District, south of Kandahar city, approximately 20 miles south of the Hikmat Feed Factory.

ADT 5 plans to select producers who will participate in a lamb-feeding demonstration starting in April of this year and continuing through early October. The feeder lambs are selected based on frame size; and will be vaccinated, dewormed and treated for external parasites by the Afghan para-vets trained by ADT 4 and mentored by the current team.  The lambs will be placed on a daily feed ration which includes wheat straw as a forage source. Each lamb will be weighed periodically during the feeding period and will be compared to lambs managed in the conventional method. During the feeding process Kandahar city based butchers and individuals will be solicited and invited to view the lambs while being fed, thus cultivating a direct market scenario that hopefully will continue and develop into an annual event. The October marketing is directed toward a major religious holiday Eid-al-Adha.

As a result of this effort producers will be educated on prescribed feeding programs that can be used to take advantage of market demand for lamb. The economic data for this enterprise will be compiled, assessed and shared with Afghan educators, leaders and producers.

“It is refreshing to see a home grown, home educated entrepreneur creating forward and backward linkages in the local economy,” said  Victoria Burke, member of the Civilian Expitionary Workforce with ADT 5. “And if he increases his business, so will these linkages, which is a good thing.“

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