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In L & Z Halal farm, eggs have expiry dates

Can you give us an insight into your poultry farm and the chicken slaughter facility you have? We have layers that give us eggs. We…

Can you give us an insight into your poultry farm and the chicken slaughter facility you have?
We have layers that give us eggs. We have two ways of disposing off eggs; we package and sell in supermarkets and we give allocations to local vendors that come to the farm and collect the eggs. We have broilers which we slaughter bi-monthly and you will also see our products in the supermarkets under the L & Z Halal brand that we also distribute all over the country. We are proud to say that we are the only farm in the North that takes its eggs to sell in Ibadan (Oyo State) which is the hub of poultry in Nigeria. We also sell eggs in Enugu, broilers and eggs in Lagos.
How many birds do you have in your farm; both layers and broilers?
You know broilers have six to seven weeks circle. So every two weeks we harvest about 2,000 birds. As you know, we are a small scale farm. So, we have slaughter slabs where we prepare the chicken, package, freeze and take them to the market.
Do you start your poultry from the day old chickens or with grown ones?
We start both broilers and layers from the day old. We breed to the point of laying then we put them into cages. That is for the layers. We have 20,000 laying capacity for the layers.
Most poultry farmers in the North complain of poor market for poultry products. How have you been copping?
Yes, the insurgency has affected a lot of activities in the region. Before now, our products were channeled to Chad and Cameroun through Maiduguri. But unfortunately, all those areas are no go areas now. That is a serious setback to our business. But normally during the cold season, we sell a lot through tea vendors because of high patronage caused by the weather. But after that, we channel our eggs through those ways that I earlier told you – which are no more in existence (the Maiduguri axis). We have challenges during the heat period.
Poultry business supports a lot of families. It is one of the very easy profitable agric businesses that you always find succour in. If state governments are sensitive to this, they should not allow poultry businesses to die because of poor patronage. I know Plateau State when they had such issue, the state government bought the products of the poultry farmers and distributed to schools. I would like to advice all state governments to always do so when there is glut to keep the farms. When you look at the jobs these farms are providing, when you look at those that buy chicken from the farms and sell in the markets, those selling maize, groundnut cake and soybeans to poultry farms, you will know that we are providing jobs to so many people. Look at the workers that these farms are employing, look at those that come to buy the eggs and go to sell; in fact, the chain is so wide that no responsible government will allow such an industry to collapse. In the interim, I will suggest that if any state has glut and farmers are losing money, the state should provide an interim arrangement where it will buy up the eggs and send to schools.
Kano and one other state have a system of including eggs in their school feeding programme. Is your farm not benefiting from that?
As I told you earlier I have a way of packaging my eggs and taking them to the market and sell. I never care to check who buys what in Kano. I wouldn’t know if they patronise some of my colleagues or not. I am calling on all the states to do that because if Kano buys the eggs from its farmers and Sokoto doesn’t buy, for example, it means the problem still persist.
The South West is the hub of poultry farming in Nigeria. How comes you take eggs to Ibadan to sell?
The coming of the structured retail outlet gave me an edge. We are not taking it to the open market but to the structured retail outlet like Shoprite and Games. Another advantage we have is that our eggs have expiry dates. We stamp expiry dates on our eggs. That guarantees that they are always fresh. Once it expires, we will recall them, destroy them and replace them with fresh ones. Sometimes people buy and eat expired eggs unknowingly because they do not carry date of expiry. Just because an egg does not smell does not mean it is fresh. Our eggs are always fresh. We take the risk of stamping them with an expiry date. Any stock that expired before we sell, we suffer a loss. But we are happy doing that because we are now sure that we are only selling fresh eggs to buyers.
How do you get feed for your birds?
We compose our feed ourselves. For the last 10 years, we have been formulating our feed. All the raw materials for chicken feed are found in the North. We have maize everywhere. Groundnut cake, cotton, soybeans and whatever you can think of are everywhere.
But some poultry farmers were recently crying out over shortage of soybeans. Did you also experience that?
My supplier is a major soybeans processor in Kano. He never told me he ran short of the stock to supply me. I was the chairman of Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Kano State chapter about two years ago, I am not aware of any shortage of soybeans.
How do you assess value addition and marketing in agribusiness so far in the country?
The key to the success of every business, especially in agriculture, is value addition and marketing. A world renowned market guru, Peter Docker said there are only two functions of business; innovation and marketing. Innovation is value addition. That is changing things from the way they are known by adding value. If for example, you continue to produce maize and rice the way we have been doing without adding value; you do not package it and you do not establish a good chain of marketing, you will continue to remain as an itinerant farmer. That business will never be a business but will remain a source of feeding your family without any remarkable progress. We have to get away from that. That is the only way agriculture will now give us the foreign exchange earnings we desire.
Agriculture should not be viewed as a developmental project, for God’s sake! It is a business; if you are going into agriculture go in to do business. Make profits and make a good living out of it. If you see that agriculture is not developing, it is because government sees it as a development project. Government has little role to play in developing agriculture. I do not want us to be blaming government on that. Government is only to provide enabling environment. It is the private sector that should go into agriculture and identify what it wants and then tell the government what it should do to support your business because you pay tax.
It is those taxes that will replace the oil income. It is true that Nigeria is shifting from dependence on oil to agriculture but that does not mean people will go and farm the give the money to government to replace the oil income, no. We are expected to produce, process, package, export and save some foreign exchange from the export and pay taxes. We cannot do that if it is not a business. So, we must attract the private sector to invest in agriculture. Those people that are used to establishing petrol stations, financing LPOs (Local Purchase Orders) will definitely find agriculture a no go area.
Until we have decided to change ourselves, then we should not blame anybody but ourselves. In dairy for example, we cannot ask government to ban importation of milk because there will be crisis. There is not enough local production to substitute the mass importation. We are spending billions of dollars in the importation of powdered milk. But if we have enough producers, we can agree with government that let there be import substitution programme over time. That was what India did. Most advanced countries also did the same.
Do we have enough people from the private sector that are really willing to invest in the agricultural sector?
Let me give you an example, 100 kilogrammes of beans is now N4,500. I am sure that the cost of producing 100 kilogrammes of bean is more than N4,000.  So, how can a beans farmer now make a living? This example clearly shows that he is producing at a loss. The only thing that is required there is value addition. Someone asked me that he is into maize, how can he add value to it? I said have you never heard of sweet corn and popcorn?
 Until we change our attitude towards agriculture and look beyond mere production and take it as a business and add value to our produce, we shall not move to anywhere.

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