By Vincent A. Yusuf (Abuja), Mahmoud Idris (Katsina), Lami Sadiq (Kaduna), Ibrahim Musa Giginyu (Kano) & Risikat Ramoni (Lagos)
For poultry farmers, the advent of COVID-19 has introduced new dynamics in the industry, which have made prices of both chicken and eggs unpredictable and in the upward curve.
This year, prices of major grains like maize remained high, even at the time of harvest, which is different from what obtained in previous years. Before COVID-19, maize was sold at N90,000 per ton while soybeans cost between N100,000 and N112,000, but the current price of maize is N220,000, while soybeans is up to N440,000 per metric ton in some markets across the country. And many dealers in these crops project a further rise during the off season.
This is going to further strain the cost of egg and meat production, which will also push retail prices of these products higher in the coming months.
Our correspondents across various states reports that farmers and buyers are bracing up for a more difficult season if the current scenario persist.
In Abuja, old layers are sold between N3,500 and N4,000 and crate of eggs N1,900 at the Utako Market. During the Charismas and New Year celebrations, the price of broiler went up to as much as N8,000, and there are reports of higher prices in some markets.
In Kaduna State, the current farm gate price of eggs per crate varies between N1,500 and N1,600, but poultry farmers say the product could be sold as high as between N1,800 and N2,000 at retail price.
Farmers in the state are lamenting that despite being the season for egg sales, they are barely making even due to the weekly price increase of chicken feed.
One of the farmers, Malam Musa Danyaro, explained that most farms sell eggs at N1,550 per crate while others sell between N1,500 and N1,600. He said the profit margin was not encouraging despite the high cost of eggs. “I am able to break even, but the profit margin is not encouraging at all because of the weekly price increase of chicken feeds,” he said.
He added that most farmers are not making profits, and as such are closing shops. “This is egg season; the patronage is always there during such period, but for me, there is a slight downward change in my booking records.”
Ibrahim Hamisu, a resident of Kaduna, told Daily Trust on Sunday that a single egg is now sold at N70 and not many people can afford it. He now relies on fish as a cheaper source of protein.
“It is unfortunate that eggs, which used to cost N25, are now sold at N70. Poultry farmers have explained to us that this is due to the high cost of chicken feed because a particular content used in mixing the feed is said to be imported, and with the dollar rising, that has affected chicken feed, and of course, it will affect the price of eggs,” he said.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that in Katsina State, eggs, which had been the cheapest source of nutrient to a common man, are now fast becoming unaffordable.
Many consumers said the high cost of eggs, especially at retail level, had made many of them cut down on consumption.
Usman Umar Funtua said that going by the economic situation in the country, a common man is now more concerned about basic food items such as maize, sorghum and rice than eggs.
“A fried egg at teashops now costs not less than N80, which in some months back was N50. The galloping prices of food items have made many of us to keep eggs out of our plan. If one can sustain the provision of basic food items to his family, I think he should thank God,” he said.
Funtua added that retailers now sell a crate of eggs at N1,750 instead of the N900 it was sold last year.
Another consumer, Malam Hassan Idris, said only those whose family members are not many could afford eggs, at least once in a while.
“Sometimes, what is affecting our economy is the number of family members we keep. Even with the increase in price of eggs, a man with a wife and five children can afford it once in a while. Some, out of ignorance, are seeing it as luxury, but egg is a necessity, especially for children and the aged,” he said.
Also, Aminu Musa, a poultry farm manager, said high cost of chicken feed gave birth to the increase in the price of eggs in the market.
“Our choices are either to buy the feed from market or mill it in our farms. The latter is less costly and guarantees strict adherence to the required formula. A 25kg bag of chicken mash is now sold at not less than N4,500 instead of N3,000 months back; same with grower and layer mash that are N4,000 and N6,000 respectively.
Prices of drugs and antibiotics have also gone high. Vitalite and anticosidiosis that were sold at N1,000 and N1,500 respectively are now N2,000 and N3,000 respectively.”
Musa added that those who chose to mill the chicken feed were bedevilled with the increasing market price of maize and soybeans, which, as at last week, were sold at N22,000 and N35,000 per 100kg bag respectively.
This, according to him, has made egg production more costly. He, however, said they were making even in the business.
“Some of us that are doing it big are making profit in the business. If you have 3,000 chickens at a point of lay, they will consume 11 bags of feed per day; and everything being equal, we are realising not less than N40,000 profit from the daily sale of egg,” he said.
He added that they were selling a crate between N1,350 and N1,450 to dealers, who would later sell to retailers, then consumers.
Another farm manager, Jamilu Sani, said that apart from the high cost of feeds and farm produce, insecurity had also contributed to the high cost of eggs.
“Many farms have closed due to the level of insecurity in the country, especially in the Kankara, Faskari, Bakori, Sabuwa, Birningwari and Dandume axis, as well as Zamfara State, which were supplying us with the produce,” Sani said.
In Kano, a crate of eggs is sold between N1, 750 and N1, 800. Farmers in the state who spoke with Daily Trust on Sunday also attributed the high cost of the produce to the high cost of poultry feed.
A farmer, Malam Kabiru Hussein, said a day-old chick, which was sold at N150 last year, is now N350.
Similarly, Malam Aminu Buba, who claimed to consume five eggs in his house every day, said he had resorted to soybeans cake as a substitute because he can no longer afford eggs.
Our correspondents in Lagos said that as at Friday when many people were closing their farms, a crate of eggs was sold at N2,000 (big size) while others cost between N1,800 and N1,900 per crate. Some months ago, a piece of egg cost between N60 and N70 in some areas while it was N80 in some places.
Getting a N50 egg in Lagos is now impossible, except slightly cracked ones.
A poultry farmer, Mr Sesan Ade, said the price of eggs at the moment would not enable him to break even as his customers still insisted on buying at a cheap price. He, however, noted that the patronage had been good as he was able to sell all the eggs in his farm before taking a break for the year.
The prices of broilers and layers have also pushed the price of local chicken up, even though most farmers rear them in free range system without spending money on their feed.
A farmer told Daily Trust on Sunday that the price of local chicken had gone up because many people were changing their consumption from the expensive chickens in the farms to local ones, which only very few hitherto sought after.