By Daisy Nandeche Okoti with Ogova Ondego
Published January 24, 2014
Before the discovery of oil and water in the arid northern Kenya region of Turkana in 2013, another ‘find’—eggs from the wild quail bird—was being hyped up as the best thing to have happened in the eastern African country; its proponents were singing the praises of the dietary, health and financial—in that order—gains from the little eggs. Now, the price of that ‘hot’investment is in a free fall mode following market saturation; from Sh120 (about US$1.41) to Sh10 (US$0.11) per egg between September 2013 and January 2014!
“Quail eggs contain three or four times as much nutritional value as chicken eggs do; and they are 13% protein while chicken eggs are only 11% protein. They contain nearly three times as much vitamin B1 as chicken eggs do and you can get double the amounts of vitamin B2 and vitamin A by eating quail eggs,” Vanguard newspaper quotes Prince Arinze Onebunne, a farm manager on the popularity and importance of people having quail eggs in their diet.
Quail eggs are considered both a delicacy and medicine in many parts of the world. Media reports say that many people in Asia and in eastern European countries such as Poland, Latvia, Ukraine and Russia consume quail eggs raw to promote their health. According to the online site, ‘Quail farm in Ireland’, it is considered in Eastern Europe that fresh quail eggs can be an alternative medicine to many diseases.
In Kenya, the popularity of rearing quails hit an all time high in 2013 when it was reported that poultry farmers were opting for quails instead of chicken. Many low income earners in the country were also said to be abandoning formal employment to stay at home and rear quails because of a supposedly booming market. Then, local daily newspapers reported that every working day saw some 200 entrepreneurs apply for licenses from Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) to rear quails. These licenses are important because quails are considered wild birds in Kenya and authority has to be sought from the wildlife management before one ventures to rear the birds.
As already noted by Nigerian Arinze Onebunne, one of the reasons why poultry farmers now prefer to rear quails is because of the nutritional value that is said to be found in the eggs of quails. British researchers are said to have recommended that quail eggs be pronounced as super-food because they have a very good impact on our health and help to fight obesity. According to the reports—mainly made by farmers and traders like Dobras Quail Farm of Nigeria and Hatchex Suppliers of Kenya, but never nutritionists or policy experts—researchers have established that quail eggs are a remedy for ailments like skin disorders, kidney stones, ulcers, cancer, anaemia, anti-ageing, asthma flare-ups, heart disease, and low sexual drive (libido), among others.
Hatchex Suppliers lists the benefits of quail eggs as:
*a remedy against digestive tract disorders such as gastritis, stomach ulcers and duodenal ulcers
*increasing haemoglobin levels and removing toxins and heavy metals from the blood
*helping in the treatment of tuberculosis, bronchial asthma, diabetes and vegetative-vascular dystrophy
*inhibiting cancerous growth
*helping eliminate and remove stones from the liver, kidneys and gall bladder
*accelerating recuperation after blood stroke
*helping strengthen heart muscles
*nourishing the prostate gland with useful substances like phosphorus, proteins and vitamins and therefore help restore sexual potency in men
*promoting good memory, enhancing brain activity and regulating the nervous system
*strengthening the immune system, slowing down the aging of organs and increasing life span
*improving skin colour and strengthening the hair, making it shiny and voluminous
*having no bad cholesterol
*having no side effects.
“If kids eat at least 2 quail eggs daily,” an email from Hatchex Suppliers says, “they grow better and are less likely to
suffer from infectious diseases.”
Encouraged by the said health benefits in a country whose people are concerned about their health due to emerging urban lifestyle health problems, saw entrepreneurs direct their energies to the rearing of quails in droves in 2013. While a quail egg retailed at Sh120 (US$1.41) at its peak in September 2013, that of a chicken went for just Sh13 (US$0.15)!
Also attracting farmers to quail rearing was the supposedly ‘low maintenance’ cost. For instance, a mature hen is said to consume an average of 150 grammes of food per day while a quail needs just 20 grammes.
But is this popularity all rosy? Are there any precautions that farmers, traders and consumers should bear in mind as they fall for the supposedly lucrative little birds? Perhaps Kenyans could do well for themselves if they were to learn something from Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country in which the quail business appears to flourish. In fact, as seen from the amount of data and images online, one could be excused if one were to conclude that the western African giant is casting its shadow on the fledgling Kenyan bird business.
Why, pray, would one sell an egg for Sh80-Sh120 in Kenya while it goes for the equivalent of Sh7.50-Sh10 in Nigeria?traders in Kenya are, since January 2014, no longer smiling all the way to the bank? They don’t seem to be respecting ‘market forces’, those of demand, supply and affordability.