Why Nigeria’s Poultry Industry Shouldn’t Collapse
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Why Nigeria's Poultry Industry Shouldn't Collapse

Nigeria’s Poultry Industry…

The Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) warned that the poultry industry is on the brink of collapsing. This indicates that food insecurity and unemployment in Nigeria will worsen unless effective corrective measures are taken. At an event commemorating the 2021 World Egg Day, PAN President, Ezekiel Ibrahim said 25 million people could lose their livelihoods due to maize and soya shortages and the currency crisis. The Federal and State Governments must intervene quickly to save the N1.6T industry from collapse, to control poverty and save jobs.

Mr Ezekiel warned of the negative consequences of the collapse of the sub-industry, such as dependence on dairy imports, the consequent loss of foreign exchange reserves and the loss of a large number of jobs in the value chain. If the country is affected by high poverty of over 70%, an unemployment rate of 33.3%, an inflation rate of 16.63%, general uncertainty and unrest, this is a situation that Nigeria wouldn’t currently support.

In January, the PAN estimated that 10 million jobs are at risk as attacks by bandits, kidnappers and Fulani herders against farming communities continued to damage agriculture and transport, affecting agriculture and supplies, including maize and soya. The agency claims that soya and maize prices rose by more than 300% and 170%, respectively. Likewise, the continued depreciation of the Naira against other currencies around the world has forced poultry farmers and feed mill operators in foreign currency to secure the necessary production inputs.

Maize is the most important source of energy in the diet of birds, its high energy value and essential fatty acids are supplemented by soya, which contains 47% to 49% protein. According to data from the US Department of Agriculture, the regime of Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired) has expanded the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme to maize producers and increased domestic Maize production from an annual average of 7 tonnes before 2016 to around 10.8 MMT in 2020. This is still below the national demand of around 12 million tons. Farmers compete for supplies because maize is also the country’s staple food. So far, Nigeria has been replaced by South Africa as Africa’s second largest maize producer. The government also bans imports of frozen poultry and maize to protect producers, but grants exemptions if necessary to meet demand for imports.

The current crisis is caused by an increase in bandit activity, attacks by Fulani herders on farming communities (the biggest producers) in the northwest, north-central and southwest regions and a crisis in the currency market. Naira is trading at N410 per US dollar this week, but is selling up to N573 at the price of US$1 on the parallel market. As agriculture and transport are affected by unsafe factors, roads and railway networks are in poor condition and production and supply are affected.

Protein-rich eggs and chicken are a necessary rich source for healthy people, especially children. However, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated that the 2020 protein shortage report shows that 92.7 million Nigerians do not consume any protein, which represents 45% of the population. Although the FAO recommends a minimum per capita daily protein intake of 53.8 grams and the world average level is 64 grams, Nigeria’s average daily intake is 45 grams. In a country where 91 million people are considered very poor, other protein-rich foods such as fish, meat, eggs, cheese and milk are also scarce.

Therefore, the government cannot withhold its efforts to make dairy available and accessible. Previous activities have allowed Nigeria to retain Africa’s largest egg producer at a rate of 650 tonnes per year; efforts must be made to regain the lead, producing more than 180 million birds a year. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization estimates that 85 million people participate in the poultry subsector, most of them on a small scale and some on a part-time basis. The National Bureau of Statistics added that it represents 25% of agricultural GDP.

To save the industry and the 13 million families that depend on full-time poultry production, federal and state governments must fill the maize supply gap by using exempt options wisely. Maize farmers said it was not enough to give four companies an exemption of 242,000 metric tons of imports, and even the 400,000 metric tons shortfall initially expected before the COVID-19 pandemic and increased uncertainty.

Beneficiaries of various intervention funds in this subsector should be monitored more closely, in particular through extension services and other support measures. State governments must implement strong policies to help promote production and keep people working. Areas of urgent need identified by experts include scarce veterinary supplies, high labor costs, medicines and poor rural infrastructure. Farmers need help with storage and marketing, especially when energy shortages make storage impractical and expensive. Actions must be taken to increase maize and soya production and support feed mills to meet local demand and exports.

CBN must bring order to the noisy foreign exchange market and take all necessary measures leading to the free market to alleviate shortages and manipulation of supply and allow the real producers to acquire the necessary foreign money at any time.

Success comes from planning and consistency: South Africa is already competitive in the global poultry market, producing chicken for the sixth lowest price in the world. In 2020, South Africa announced a new poultry industry master plan to stimulate demand and protect local industries, boost feed costs (maize and soya) and exports. After a similar decline in production in 2020, it is expected that once Brazil and India take steps to deal with high feed and crop prices, poultry production will rebound strongly. Brazil will increase 7.5% by 2021 and India will increase from 6% to 8%.

Nigerians must act quickly to rescue the poultry industry at this critical time.

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