Imasuen Kingsley is the chairman Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Edo State chapter. In this interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, he speaks on the cost of starting a poultry farm now, issues affecting poultry farmers, challenges in poultry farming, among other sundry issues.
What are the challenges facing poultry farmers in Edo State?
There are lots of challenges such as unavailability of corn, soya and other ingredients used in making feeds, which are very expensive now. This has led to many people abandoning the business. The price of egg has skyrocketed. A crate of egg in Edo State is between N2,800 and N2,900 and a lot of people are no longer buying egg. The farmers are struggling between selling the products and buying feeds to sustain the business. This makes it difficult for poultry farmers to expand their farms.
What does it take for one to go into poultry farming?
It takes lots to start. First of all, you have to look for land to locate your business. In Benin for instance, most of the poultries were initially located within the living environment and the odour from such business is not good for the health of people. Therefore, the farmers are being forced to go to the interior but because of the fear of kidnappers and theft, the people can’t put up reasonable poultry farms outside the city and as a result, many people are not going into poultry farming.
What does one need to start poultry farming?
In Edo State, first of all, you have to register your business and go to the Ministry of Environment to authenticate the business environment. Then, you go to the ministry of Agriculture to seek expert opinion on the business. The focal point now is good agricultural practices so that you will not make mistakes. You also need to join an association of like minds doing the same business, as it is the best because they will also put you through. We have a Poultry Association of Nigeria which regulates poultry farming. We meet regularly, brainstorm and look at our common problems and goals of the association.
How do farmers get birds for their farms in Edo?
It depends on the kind of poultry farming you want to do. You can start from pullets (small birds), there is also broilers and Cockerel and now, we have Noiler but many of the birds are not found in Edo. We get them from the South West, East and the Northern parts of the country. We are just managing in Edo because we don’t have it here. Now, Edo is trying to build a processing plant in Iyanomon community on Sapele Road through All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) Edo chapter’s initiative and it has gotten to an advanced stage. They try to cluster poultry farmers in one place to produce birds for the factory and the factory capacity is about 10,000 birds a day. So, we are doing our best to cluster ourselves to produce birds for the factory.
What would new poultry farmer do to get good yield?
The farmer needs to imbibe good agricultural practices because any mistake you make can send you out of the business, and the cost of production is very high now. The only way one can do it is to have the financial capacity because poultry is not a business where you would be looking for money when the birds are already in the farm and you need to get the money to buy feed to take care of them. The birds don’t have to wait for you to go and look for money before they eat. That is the only way a farmer can succeed. If you want to start, you plan on the capital available and then you take a site and look for professionals such as animal specialists, veterinary doctors who will assist you in making the farm successful.
How much does one need to start a farm?
Now that production is very expensive, if you are going for 100 birds (broiler), you need between N400,000 and N500,000 before you can start.
Is there any support in terms of inputs or grants, extension service in Edo State?
Edo State government is doing its best to ensure that poultry is developed in the state. They want to make Edo a hub where poultry production and marketing is good by aggregating poultry farmers and supporting them. The government also gives us an avenue to source for fund through the Bank of Agriculture and Bank of Industry. The banks have assisted individuals, depending on their capacity. Some farmers go through cooperatives while others go individually and they must have the collateral needed to get the loan.
Are you saying the loan is accessible to the farmer?
It is accessible to those who know how to access it, very many people are at home saying what they want to say without making efforts to see how to get the loan. Collateral is important because some farmers in the past took the loan and squandered the money on marrying wives but now the banks make sure that they have an avenue through which they can recoup their loan.
But how true is it that grants and loans also go to political farmers?
It is true; some people aggregate themselves through the ministry or politics and hijack most of the grants and loans meant for the farmers.
Is there market for poultry in Edo?
Nigeria’s marketing structure is bad. In the past, we used to have marketing board where most of the agricultural products go through and the farmers were secured. Farmers can go through insurance or government’s marketing board. The government offtakes the products from the farmers and sell at a later date and give farmers the money so that they can continue with their business. But that is not the same again. The middlemen who are supposed to buy the products from the farmers at the farm gate would want to buy them at a very low cost, making sure that all the profit accrued to that agricultural product would be theirs while the farmers would be looking for money to expand their farms.
How bad is the issue of cost of feed for birds?
Feeds are available but affordability is the problem. In poultry farming, 75 to 80 per cent of the cost of production is from the feed and as the price of feed is increasing, the cost of the product is also increasing, and the problem we have is that the farmers would be at the receiving end because if we don’t buy feed for the birds, they will die. But if farmers use the expensive feed to produce egg or chicken, the buyer would price it low or keep the farmers in a position they can’t make profit. Sometimes, middlemen create artificial scarcity of not coming to buy from farmers.
What is the cost of feed now?
Feed is on the high side now, a layer mash or starter mash is now N10,000 per bag.
What is your appeal to government?
I appeal to the state and federal governments to look in the way of the poultry industry because we ought to be above the situation where we now bring in eggs from other countries. Egg is now N4,000 and the scarcity is all over the country. So, government should encourage farmers through access to loan and product marketing. Marketing board should be reintroduced into the agricultural value chain so that the farmers will not be at the losing end. Poultry farmers should also encourage themselves because if one stops production, it would be difficult to come back. Just do the little you can so that when succour comes at last, you can have somewhere to start from.