By Vincent A. Yusuf, Baba Martins (Abuja), Mumini AbdulKareem (Ilorin)
The poultry industry is about to collapse and if that happens, there are many negative consequences that would befall the people,” the Director General of Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Onallo Akpa, has said.
He was speaking as the farmers gathered on Friday to count losses, instead of celebrating World Egg Day, a global event marked every second Friday of October, in Abuja.
“People producing in other parts of the world are waiting to see the poultry industry in Nigeria collapse and if that happens, it is a big market for them because we have the population which will create a big market for them,” he explained.
For about two years now, farmers have struggled as their investments crumbled due to rising prices of inputs – maize, soybeans, feed and other components rose – and continued to rise, forcing many of them to sell off their birds at a loss.
Last year, the farmers said they lost about N1.5 trillion to COVID-19 lockdown and on Friday, they said about 20 million Nigeria are going down with unemployment, which will further worsen the already unacceptable situation.
The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) PAN chairman, Mr Pius Aminu, said, “In the last six months, over 2000 people have been thrown into the labour market as a result of some of the challenges the poultry farmers are facing.”
He noted that “no sector in Nigeria is employing people like the poultry industry, where an average farm with a population of 2,000 birds needs not less than 10 workers.”
In Kwara State, the farmers took their cry to Governor Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq to assist the association by ensuring a reduction in the price of poultry feeds in the state.
According to the association, the high cost of raising chicken has discouraged many poultry farmers from venturing into the business.
Speaking at an event to mark the World Egg Day and the 20th anniversary of the global event, the state chairman of the association, Mr Ojo Akinwumi Richard, said poultry farmers are presently running at a loss.
Speaking at the event, the Director of Livestock, Kwara State Ministry of Agriculture, Mohammed Umar Hammed, assured poultry farmers of government’s support in making grains available at a cheaper rate by next year.
He, however, appealed to members of the association to return to the business, assuring that government would continue to support them.
In Ogun State, Mr Idowu Asenuga, the chairman of the Poultry Association of Nigeria, did not foresee a bright future for the industry unless government changed its policy on vaccines, compensation, maize and soybeans.
In an interview with Daily Trust, he said though egg is the cheapest source of protein in Nigeria, unfortunately, the federal government has not been supporting the poultry industry.
The farmer said the industry is currently facing three grave challenges, which will negatively affect it.
The first is the challenge of avian influenza which is ravaging the country currently and the issue of compensation. The federal government’s ban on the importation of vaccines to tackle the disease is not welcome by the farmers.
“The logical thing for any country that is having a disease challenge is to look at the disease and take preventive measures. When COVID came for human beings, what are we doing now, we are vaccinating; but the federal government has placed a ban on vaccination of birds affected by avian influenza and there is no compensation for anybody that has more than 3,000 birds.
“How do you allow me to sink millions into investment and then you are not allowing me to protect my investment, that is suicidal, that is very unfair.
“Farms that have been affected by avian influenza, the government is not protecting them and they are not allowing them to protect their farms by vaccination.
“So we found it counter-productive and very worrisome and this is affecting the industry; the poultry industry is shrinking and people are losing their jobs and coupled with the fact that our members are not even secure, they are being kidnapped and killed on daily basis,” he said.
Secondly, the PANOG chair said because of the current state of the poultry industry, farmers now find it difficult to get funding from commercial banks.
“As a commercial farmer and chairman of PANOG, I tried to seek succour from one of the commercial banks and I was turned back. So you can’t even get support from commercial banks, they will tell you the poultry industry is not vibrant and they won’t lend you money.
“So it is hell for us right now as we speak and unfortunately governments at all levels are not coming to our aid,” he stated.
Thirdly, on the issue of maize and soybean, he said it was disturbing that since last year when COVID broke out, banditry, kidnapping, insurgency combined to make it difficult for farmers to go to their farms.
“The federal government also chose to ban forex for the importation of maize,” which, he said, triggered a price hike because of a colossal fall in supply.
“We find it very worrisome that even at the peak of COVID, banditry and kidnapping, that is when the government chose to ban forex for the importation of maize. The logical thing is that if any country cannot produce sufficient food, it imports pending when it is able to produce enough.
“But the government’s action spelt doom for the poultry industry in Nigeria. Most of our members closed shop because the prices of maize and soy have gone beyond their reach,” he said.
The farmers called on government to look into some of the policies to, among others, allow importation specifically for the industry feeds and medication purposes.