Mande Chicken is a small manufacturer nestled within Gabsongkeg, Nadzab.
Owner Tim Numilengi is a food science graduate and has worked in the marine food manufacturing sector and with various development programs around the Pacific Region for a several years.
His past employment gave him the opportunity to observe processing facilities, to see what worked and what failed. Eventually, chose what he wanted for his personal project.
After a long time thinking about it – he started the paper work a few years back – then he got down to work. After visiting poultry local farmers in the area, he decided to build the Mande model.
Tim’s first Cobb chicks arrived and he began his first tasks as a poultry farmer supplier for Tablebirds before building his small plant 8 years later.
“Big scale poultry farming is a scientific and sophisticated business. New technology is being developed every day and we have to move with the times. Innovation is a priority. I have built a chicken facility with modern processing.”
The only two local suppliers of meat birds, Niugini Tablebirds and Zenag – both based in Morobe province – are not able to meet the demands of the PNG market.
“Chicken continues to be imported from Malaysia and Australia to meet the market demand,” says Tim. “I spent a few years saving up to invest into my business expansion plan from an out grower to producer-manufacturer-distributor. By November 2019, the process line was in place.”
He installed killing cones for stunning and bleeding chicken and a scalding machine. Water heats up to 60 oC to soften chicken feathers before plucking the feathers.
The plucking machine removes chicken feathers. He also installed a gutting table, sink with pressurized water for washing and cleaning chicken and a vacuum sealing machine for whole round birds and a cutting machine for chicken pieces legs, wings, things and breast for packing in 900g trays.
Tim invested in a modern blast freezer for blast freezing the products down to a temperature of -35 °C and a cold storage facility for storage at -18°C. Whilst this was unfolding, Tim developed his brand, barcode and ordered his labels and packaging from abroad.
“It is a substantial investment for our small business. This includes building our own water treatment and installing a 1 Kilometer powers line from the main PNG Power Grid from the highway. We have to constantly fix the feeder roads from the main highway at our own cost,” he laments.
After his small plant was commissioned, Tim secured a BSP SME Loan in February 2020. Mande Chicken was ready for Lae consumers 2 months later on the 13th of April.
“We had six staff and employed an additional 15 from around Gabsongkeg, Wampar LLG – most of whom were laid off from full time work during Covid-19.”
At full throttle, Tim slaughters 1,000 chickens a week on his fully automated poultry facility and delivers on Mondays, Wednesday and Friday.
He found favor with an Asian retail outlet – Sinowell at Eriku and started retailing there. The rest of his stock was sold via Facebook.
Mande ‘Big Kai’ was introduced at K13.50 and was an instant hit. Tim says, he is not out to take on the bigger businesses – Tablebirds and Zenag. But he wants to help bridge the supply Gap as an SME.
Seen in the supermarket, Mande Chicken might seem a world away from Tablebirds and Zenag in terms of retail spacing, but this business too is a rural one, based on small-holders locals in Gabsongkeg.
“We opened our first ‘Mande’ shop to sell our chicken, but that didn’t last long. Covid-19 restrictions on consumer traffic and a decline in the overall cash circulation in the city forced us to close shop in September 2020.”
Tim reluctantly closed shop and moved back to Gabsongkeg, Nadzab where he operates from today.
“Covid-19 restrictions choked cash flow. I urge the government to put more effort in economic recovery and working around Covid-19. We need cash to survive, pay our overheads and repay the SME loan they have given us.”
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