Despite all the noise about the current political stalemate, expected economic slowdown and crisis-stricken agricultural sector, Sri Lankans have increased their daily intake of proteins by way of eating more chicken meat, perhaps to produce more energy to face tougher times ahead.
In what appears to be an interesting revelation, a Sri Lankan on average has consumed 7.3 kilogrammes of chicken meat in 2016, an increase from 6.9 kilogrammes a year earlier, a notable jump after remaining virtually stagnant for years.
Demand for meat is associated with higher incomes and urbanization, which favour increased proteins from animal sources in diets.
It is unclear if the controlled prices imposed on chicken meat contributed to this surge in demand but certainly the rise in wages, moderate inflation and higher disposable income prevailed during 2015 and 2016 had a direct impact on the latest numbers, said Cheng Chih Kwong, Primus, Chief Executive of Three Acre Farms PLC, a leading chicken meat producer in the country.
Sri Lanka had a controlled price for chicken, which was abandoned in March this year as supply-side restrictions were hurting the industry as animal feed had to be imported at higher prices because local maize was barely sufficient to feed an expanding industry.
The rise in tourism trade also has had a positive impact on the chicken meat intake as the significant surge in HORECA sector— hotels, restaurants and catering—pulled more chicken out of poultry farms such as Three Acre.
“Chicken and poultry products continued to grow and build on its popularity as a staple component of the local diet, which offer healthy nutrition to consumers, at a price which is substantially cheaper than other popular alternatives, such as fish and other meat varieties, while still being able to fulfil the dietary protein requirements of the nation. These observations are supported by the most current data, which indicates a notable increase in per capita consumption of chicken, which rose from 6.9 up to 7.3 kilogrammes by the end of the year in review,” said Kwong in his annual review of operations to the shareholders. However, this is much lower compared to the East Asian average.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data in Thailand, the per capita poultry meat consumption was 9.7 kilogrammes in 2015 while the OECD average was 28.6 kilogrammes. Israel had the highest chicken per capita consumption of 57.7 kilogrammes followed by the United Stated with 47.6 kilogrammes.
Sri Lanka is predominantly a Buddhist country and traditional Buddhist values discourage any form of meat consumption. Three Acre Farms PLC, a unit of Singapore-controlled Ceylon Grain Elevators PLC, is the market leader in broiler and layer day old chicks (DoC).
Despite inflationary pressures causing slight modulation in demand for broiler, the DoC sales increased in 2016 due to the fact that chicken meat continues to provide the most value for money in terms of affordability, nutritional content while also being the healthiest option among meat products prevalent in the domestic market, the company said.
During 2016, the company expanded its exports into the South Asian region and is hopeful of further orders from the region going forward. Meanwhile, the per capita consumption of eggs in Sri Lanka reduced from 72 in 2015 to 68 in 2016. “It is important to note that reduced per capita consumption of eggs was not a result of weaker demand – which actually continued to increase during the year in review—but instead was primarily a symptom of limited supply of layer DoCs in the domestic market, in turn caused by import restrictions of layer parent stock DoCs in the wake of 2016’s major outbreak of avian influenza in exporting countries,” Kwong said. For the financial year ended December 31, 2016, Three Acre Farms PLS saw its earnings rising by as much as 48 percent to Rs.813 million, the highest by the firm. Revenues rose by 22 percent to Rs.2.5 billion. Ceylon Grain Elevators PLC holds a 57.21 percent stake in Three Acre Farms followed by a 15 percent stake by Prima Limited in Singapore.