Kidnapping, insurgency to cause food crisis, loss of 10m jobs by 2020
• PAN demands incentives for farmers, tax holidays for feed millers, hatcheries
The Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) has raised the alarm that food scarcity looms by 2020 and over 10 million jobs will be lost in the crop production, grain aggregation, feed milling, hatchery services and poultry production if the scourges of insurgencies, herder-farmer crisis and kidnapping continues.
The association, through its president, Mr Ibrahim Mam, said grain farmers in the north-central and north-east zones are supposed to be on the farm now, but insurgencies, kidnapping and other crises emanation from herders and farmers have prevented them from farm cultivation.
He said: “But I am scared because the north generally suffers and if the situation does not improve, by 2020 we will be in trouble because most farmers in the north cannot go to the farm for they are afraid of kidnapping.
“In the northeast, most farmers cannot go to the farm because of Boko Haram insurgents. In the north-central zone, farmers are afraid because of the herder-farmer crises. So, the majority of the people are not going to the farm now, and that portends dangers ahead.”
Most poultry farmers who are in the troubled zones, he said, had closed their farms for fear of being attacked and killed.
Inability to cultivate maize and soya, which are essential raw materials in animal feeds formulation, would sky-rocket the price of feeds and this would force over 10 million poultry farmers in the country to lose their jobs and become a burden on the country already tensed economy.
Mam disclosed that as of today, seven to 10 million people are directly or indirectly engaged in the poultry and allied industries in Nigeria, and that there is no state of the federation that does not engage in poultry production. The most important thing, he added, is that 90 per cent of poultry activities are private sector-driven with the job-creating potentialities.
“And it is the most capitalised of all the agricultural sectors because poultry is capital intensive, having vacancies for all levels of manpower. We have small-holder farmers who have from 50 to 250 birds. Some have between 250 and 10,000 birds, whereas some have 10,000 to 100,000 or more birds,” he said.
Mam recalled that insurgencies intensified in 2016 and there was scarcity of maize because most farmers in the north could not go to the farm, crippling the poultry industry and causing high prices of food items in 2017.
“If you want to enjoy commercial poultry, it should be located in the outskirts. Now, most farmers have closed farms because they are scared they would be kidnapped or their workers killed. So, generally, we are going to have challenges getting poultry protein sources from the north. For you to fundamentally revive any economy, you have to boost the poultry industry. Historically in any economy, the poultry sector has played significant roles.
“In Israel, America, Brazil and around the world, the return on investment in the poultry production is about six weeks. You have protein products in six weeks. By 22 weeks, you have pullets laying eggs. So, the return on investment is quicker. It is the quickest source of nutrition. Unfortunately, of all the sectors in agriculture, poultry is the least supported,” he added.
He also said Nigerian indigenous investors had invested huge resources in the sector, saying, “most of the times, we do not get interventions.
This was corroborated by a former chairman of the association in Oyo State, Mr Banji Akanji, who disclosed that most indigenous hatcheries in the state, being the largest hub of the poultry industry in the country, had either been leased or purchased by Lebanese investors who come with cheap capital, displacing most local operators and causing loss of jobs across major companies.
Most foreign investors have tax holidays from the Federal Government of Nigeria for three years, they claim, and they get cheapest interest rates from their countries, while the indigenous farmers are capital-strapped and heavily laden with taxes and levies.
What the government can do
Mam said to save the poultry industry and its sub-sectors of feed milling, veterinary medicines and ingredient supply chains, the government should intervene by giving incentives to poultry farmers, feed millers, grain aggregators and hatcheries.
The poultry producer said: “If you are increasing your stock as an indigenous investor, the government should give you incentives because you are creating jobs and by so doing, you are expanding the tax net of the government. This will bring added revenue to the government. So, you should be rewarded for this. It will motivate people. In fact, most Nigerians outside would be encouraged to bring their resources home for investments.”
Again, as part of the way forward, he called on the government to improve on the security situation of the country. To him, security issues are better handled by the community through the traditional institutions. Traditional leaders and their subjects are in a better position to identify strangers in their communities and report to higher authorities for actions.
“We can only overcome our security challenges when we go back to the basics. Generally, as Africans we have our traditional systems of administration. I am talking of the traditional rulers. You know we have the village head, the district head, the emir, and in Yorubaland, we have baales, obas and the likes. What is the essence of that system? It is that anyone coming to the community is identified. And these people have the mandate to report to higher authorities,” he said.
Education, he added, is key to the survival of Nigeria for it gives knowledge, tolerance and with it, Nigerians can see things from the perspectives of others.
“Once you are not educated, you become myopic. You are likely to see things from your own point of view. And you see other persons as inferior. We need to seriously invest in education,” he said as one of the ways to improve on security of life and property, which, in turn, would help farmers to produce grains and pulses needed for animal feeds.
Buttressing Mam’s points, one Mr Segun Tebu, a manager in Lord’s Support Hatchery Services in Oluyole Industrial Estate, Ibadan, said “power is essential in hatchery business. Running a generator with diesel within 24 hours will cost over N50,000. If a hatchery is not located where there is constant power supply, it cannot run successfully.”
Explaining the challenges in the hatchery and poultry breeding subsectors, Tebu explained to The Guardian that the cost of feeding broiler parents stock is higher because they are heavy breeds and consume more feeds. Scarcity of soya beans and maize make the situation worse for broiler breeding business.
Pullet parents stock are light breeds, he continued, and they consume less feeds than broiler parent stocks, making them more economical or cheaper to keep. But price of the day-old chicks too will determine whether broiler or pullets are profitable to the breeding farms.
The hatchery sub-sector of the poultry industry has been taken over by the Lebanese. They include Sayed Farm, Bronco, Castada, and the likes. The indigenous ones like Obasanjo Hatchery in Oluyole are not hatching personal birds. They operate commercially by hatching birds for smallholder farmers who pay for their services, and Terudee Farm is not hatching again because of the power challenge, The Guardian learnt.