Domestic poultry industry is collapsing - NEWS HOUNDS


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Domestic poultry industry is collapsing

THE alarm by the Poultry Association of Nigeria of the imminent collapse of the poultry industry portends a worsening of Nigeria’s food insecurity and unemployment disasters unless effective remedial action is taken. At an event to mark the 2021 World Egg Day, Ezekiel Ibrahim, the president of PAN, said 25 million persons could lose their livelihoods as the poultry sector totters, battered by maize and soya scarcity, and the foreign exchange crisis. With dispatch, the federal and state governments should intervene to save the N1.6 trillion industry from collapse to check poverty and save jobs.

Ezekiel warned of the negative consequences of the sub-sector’s collapse such as a return to import-dependency for dairy products, its attendant drain on foreign reserves and massive job losses across the value chain. This is a scenario the country can ill-afford at this time when it is afflicted with a high poverty rate of over 70 percent, unemployment of 33.3 percent, inflation of 16.63 percent, general insecurity, and industrial unrest.

In January, PAN had estimated 10 million jobs at risk, but the continued disruptions to farming and transportation by banditry, kidnapping and Fulani herdsmen attacks on farming communities had hit maize and soya farming and supplies. The body claimed that the prices of soya and maize had spiked more than 300 per cent and 170 per cent respectively. Similarly, the continued downward slide of the naira against other world currencies has starved poultry farmers and feed mill operators of forex to secure essential production inputs.

Maize is the principal energy source in poultry feed, its high energy value and essential fatty acids are complemented by soya, which has 47-49 percent protein. Though commendably, the extension of the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme to maize farmers by the regime of the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had raised domestic maize production from an average of 7-8 million metric tonnes annually before 2016, to about 10.8MMT by 2020, according to the US Department of Agriculture. This still falls short of the national demand of about 12MMT. Farmers are competing for supplies since corn is also a staple food across the country. Hitherto No. 1, Nigeria has been displaced to the second-largest maize producer in Africa by South Africa. The government had also banned imports of maize and frozen poultry to protect producers but gives waivers when necessary for imports to meet demand.

The current crisis was triggered by a combination of the spike in banditry and Fulani herdsmen attacks on farming communities in the North-West, North-Central and South-West, the largest producer, and by the forex crisis. The naira exchanged at N410 to the US$ this week but sold for as high as N573 to $1 on the parallel market. With farming and transportation afflicted by insecurity, poor roads and railway networks, production and supplies have been hit. This is compounded by the generally poor business operating environment.

Rich in protein, chicken and eggs are rich sources required for healthy humans and particularly children. But the Protein Deficiency Report 2020 showed that 92.7 million Nigerians do not take in any protein at all, 45 percent of the population, said the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation. While the FAO recommends a minimum per capita daily protein intake of 53.8 grams and the global average is 64g, the average daily intake in Nigeria is 45g. Other protein-rich foods like fish, meat, egg, cheese, and milk are also scarce in a country where 91 million persons are adjudged to be very poor.

The government cannot relent in its efforts, therefore, to make dairy products available and affordable. Past activities had enabled Nigeria to retain the largest egg producer spot in Africa with 650MT annually; efforts should be targeted towards recovering the lead spot by surpassing the current 180 million birds produced yearly. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation estimates that 85 million persons are engaged in the poultry sub-sector, mostly small scale and, some part-time. It contributes 25 percent to the agriculture GDP, adds the National Bureau of Statistics.

To save the sector and the 13 million households relying on full-time poultry production, the federal and state governments need to fill the maize supply gap by judiciously using the waiver option. Maize growers say the waivers granted to four companies to import 242,000MT is inadequate, falling short of the 400,000MT initially envisaged shortfall even before the COVID-19 pandemic and the spike in insecurity.

Taming insecurity is essential. With 43 percent of the total poultry population in the crisis-wracked Northern states, production is depressed. States should take charge of securing their domains while the federal security agencies must map out more effective anti-crime strategies.

There should be closer monitoring of beneficiaries of the various interventionist funds in the sub-sector, especially by way of extension services and other supportive measures. State governments should roll out robust policies to help boost production and keep people at work. Areas of urgent need identified by experts include scanty veterinary inputs, high labour costs, medication, and poor rural infrastructure. Farmers need help in storage and marketing, especially as power shortages make storage impractical and expensive. There should be actions to boost maize and soya production and support feed millers to meet local demand and for export.

The CBN needs to tidy up the rowdy forex market and take all necessary free market-friendly measures to ease the supply shortfall and manipulation and make needed foreign exchange readily available to genuine producers.

Success comes through planning and consistency: already competitive in the global poultry market and producing chicken at the sixth lowest price in the world, South Africa unveiled a new poultry sector master plan in 2020 to drive demand, protect the local industry, feed costs (maize and soya), and boost exports. After similar production declines in 2020, Brazil and India are forecast to see a sharp recovery in poultry production following measures to tackle high feed and crop prices, Brazil’s by 7.5 percent in 2021 and India’s by 6-8 percent.

The Nigerian government should also move fast to save the poultry sub-sector with similar measures and doggedness.

Copyright PUNCH

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