Nigeria is losing the fight against bird flu across the states as more farmers refuse having their farms depopulated without immediate compensation.
Our correspondents across the states report that poultry farmers who are already facing continuous rise in prices of feeds, vitamins, labour and other associated costs will rather sell off their infected birds than report the disease to government.
Although Daily Trust gathered that the situation is different in some states like Zamfara and Katsina where insecurity has forced many farmers out of business, with only few who still run their farms with bird flu as the least among their headaches.
Since the recent outbreak of the flu many weeks ago, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is yet to speak openly to farmers and the public on the current state of the control measures and compensation, a situation that has further heightened the farmers’ fear and mistrust.
Our reporter in Kano reports that lack of adequate provision for compensation has forced poultry farmers in the state to kill and sell off their birds than report the presence of the disease to the authorities. The same thing happened in Plateau, as Daily Trust earlier reported.
However, the Kano State Chairman of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Alhaji Umar Usman Kibiya, revealed that despite the fact that the spread of the flu had reduced, there was no any form of compensation to affected farmers, adding that the development had led to many farmers not reporting the outbreak on their farms.
Alhaji Umar said, “Though reports on the spread of the flu has reduced, we are made to understand that the reduction is as a result of lack of effective compensation machinery, and that has stalled the control measure put in place by the association. We have discovered that some poultry farmers have resorted to killing and selling their affected birds without reporting to the association for proper action due to the fact that even if they report no provision for compensation has been made by authorities concerned.”
A poultry farmer, Alhaji Kabiru Bello, said he sold all his birds despite the fact that he knew they were affected to minimise the losses he would incur if he allowed the birds to die or be killed by authorities that would pay him no compensation.
Even at the state government level, a source who spoke with our reporter revealed that the agriculture ministry was currently underfunded and could not do anything on the issue, stating further that the ministry was now rendered incapable as agencies under it now functioned far better as various activities are now being conducted by the anointed agencies and not the ministry.
Daily Trust investigation has revealed that despite the outbreak of the flu, poultry feed has also added price. It was reliably gathered that a 25kg bag of layer mash is now selling for between N6,500 and N6,800; depending on the producing company.
In Katsina, poultry farmers told our correspondent that they were more concerned about running cost and insecurity than the bird flu outbreak.
A poultry farm manager in Funtua, Isah Abdullahi, said insecurity had since forced them to sell off the birds as they could not risk their lives to work in the area.
Abdullahi said, “To most of us in this zone, it is not the question of bird flu, but who can invest huge amounts of money on the outskirts of towns at the mercy of bandits. Cost of chicken feed also is scaring, especially to a starter, hence majority of us now switched to noiler chickens instead of layers or broilers as they are more resistant to infection and could be reared for both meat and egg.
“If we report the outbreak government will kill and bury the birds without giving us any meaningful compensation; but if we sell them to hotels and barbeque spots we will raise money to cover some losses.”
A small scale poultry farmer, Jume Sani said, “Last week I lost about a 100 birds, and some of my friends doing it on small scale have also suffered the virus attack. We are really pained considering how we are using our meagre resources to keep them.”
For hundreds of Borno small scale poultry farmers, they have abandoned the business following increasing number of deaths of birds associated with suspected Newcastle bird disease rampaging Maiduguri, the state capital.
Already, many farmers have been dislodged from the system as result of hike of animal care, including feed, vitamins and antibiotics, which have skyrocketed within the last three months.
One of the victims, Falmata Usman, told Daily Trust that the recent death of birds, hike of animal care like feed and other vitamins had forced her to abandon poultry farming.
Falmata said, “I was into poultry farming for over five years and I used to grow between 150 and 250 chicks twice, especially towards a festive period. I lost over 80 birds last December as a result of a strange bird disease, coupled with the high cost of feed. I sold the remaining ones and decided to venture into another business because the mortality of last year was worse than this season.”
In Benue, what is killing poultry farmers is not bird flu, but the cost of production.
A poultry farmer, Rose Oche, said, “Since November we have been buying chicken feed at N7,500 per bag as against N5,900 a few weeks before then.”
Another poultry farmer, Timothy Abah, said the price of feed was on the rise daily.
Mr Abah said, “Every day, the price of chicken feed is going up. A 25kg bag of layer mash has moved up to N7,200; finisher is N8,200 and grower N6,800.
The state Chairman of PAN, Francis Mson, disclosed that it was only last week that he got to know about the outbreak of avian influenza in the country when they were called for a meeting in Makurdi.
Mson said, “It was there they brought all the samples for us to see and urged us to get to the farmers and tell them about it. So, I just sent that information to our farmer groups.
“The average farmers could not be able to keep up to 100 birds now. In December, we bought feeds at N8,000, N8,500, with the least at N7,000, which is Oracle Feed, but now Supreme Feed is N8,500. Amon and Jagaban feeds also sell at the same price of N8,500.”
Effort to get details of the current state of the bird flu control measures in states from the Department of Veterinary and Pest Control Services of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development failed because officials refused to react to the inquiry.
By Vincent A. Yusuf (Abuja), Ibrahim Musa Giginyu (Kano), Hassan Ibrahim (Maiduguri), Mahmoud Idris (Katsina) & Hope Abah Emmanuel (Makurdi)