Olam denies face-off with egg farmers in Kaduna
• Investigations Show Olam Still Selling Eggs
Olam Nigeria, a subsidiary of Olam International Limited has denied claims of misunderstanding between the company and local poultry farmers, over the purported sales of eggs and matured broilers from its Integrated Poultry Facility, in Kaduna State.
The poultry farm, comprising Feed Mill, Hatchery and Breeder Farms, located at Chikpiri Gabas Village, Gwagwada, Kaduna State was launched on September 12, 2017, to close the wide deficit in chicken, by creating high-end chicken, in addition to its chain of agricultural investments in the country.
Findings from local farmers in the state revealed that when the international organisation came on board as a player, there was anxiety on the part of smallholder poultry farmers that the big company will take over their businesses, by producing large scale and rendering them jobless, but they were assured that nothing of such will happen. Olam promised to stick with the plan of producing day-old-chicks and feeds.
But a few months ago, the story appeared to have changed, as local farmers alleged that the company had pulled a fast one on them with the sudden change of plan.
It was alleged that due to Olam’s challenges of marketing day-old chicks produced from its Hatchery, it was forced to go into the egg and matured broilers selling a business, which doesn’t go down well with farmers in the state, as it forced down the price of eggs, causing financial losses to farmers. They claimed that the company’s action created a glut in the market.
According to reports, the development led to a face-off between the company and the state chapter of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN). It was alleged that the poultry farmers did not only warn the company to desist from selling eggs, it also threatened to boycott its products, especially day-old-chicks and feeds, as a way of expressing their displeasure.
The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of PAN in the state, Zakariyya Abubakar told The Guardian: “Initially, when the company arrived, we had a discussion and we were scared that they were coming to take over the industry from us, and they confirmed to us that such won’t happen. Along the way, they started doing that and it becomes a challenge to the poor farmers. We had to escalate it to our main headquarters in Abuja and discussed with them that they are not supposed to kill our business, as we are partners in progress.”
He said when Olam started sales of eggs, the local farmers could not compete with it, hence the drastic fall in their market.
Abubakar said it all started when he noticed that his customers were fleeing and started patronising Olam.
“You see, this story is my story because I was the first person to detect this from Olam. I was the first to raise concern in our association in Kaduna State before it was taken to Abuja.
“Sometimes, I couldn’t count my losses. I have broilers but I couldn’t sell. The market was very low and my customers who used to patronise me stopped. I discovered that Olam had been hiring farms that have not been functioning and putting in their best to raise birds within those farms, doing it on a large scale.
“There was a firm that nursed 20,000 birds and they brought them out at once for sale. With that number, you don’t need to be told that they will be sold at a giveaway price and they will make a huge profit. The retailers were not buying from us, they buy from Olam,” he stated.
But in an exclusive interview with The Guardian, Vice President, Corporate and Government Relations of Olam, Ade Adefeko, denied the allegations. “This is far from the truth. We have not had any difficultly selling day-old-chicks since inception. The market prices are quite volatile, depending on demand and supply and all day-old-chick producers are equally impacted by that.
“We also did not directly get into any egg sales business. We received requests from a couple of large farmers in the North to help them revive their farms and we decided to support them with working capital and farm management. However, some small, local poultry farmers, who escalated it to PAN, perceived this negatively. We have since clarified our position to various PAN chapters and the matter has been amicably resolved. There are no open issues currently.”
On the abandonment of its feeds by local farmers in the state and its environs, Adefeko said: “There is no iota of truth in this claim. Our feed is fully patronised by farmers in Kaduna and other Northern states.
“We are quite satisfied with the performance of our feed and day-old-chick investments in Kaduna. Our brands enjoy acceptance Pan Nigeria and we are happy to be able in our own little way contribute to the growth and development of the Animal Feed and Protein/Poultry sector. Our purpose is to impact households and livelihoods by continued investments in the country’s Food Security Agenda.”
However, contrary to Olam’s claims, there are indications, according to The Guardian investigation that sales of eggs for commercial purpose is still ongoing, despite talks with poultry farmers.
Despite assurances, an inside source revealed that eggs are still readily available from the poultry at commercial rate.
Though the poultry association farmers said they are yet to officially confirm this, according to feelers, there is possibility that some of the company’s staff might be selling covertly to retailers without the company’s knowledge.
The Guardian correspondent, who visited the poultry facility as an undercover, approached a male staff of the organisation like a potential buyer, who confirmed that Olam still sells egg.
He said: “we supply eggs from Zaria, not here in Kaduna. If you are ready to buy, I will link you up with who will sell to you.”
Asked how much a crate of egg goes for, he said: “Currently, a crate is N930.”
Asked whether it’s appropriate for Olam to sell eggs for commercial purpose, he said, “What I am telling you is that you can get from our farm in Zaria. We don’t sell at the farm along Kaduna-Abuja road. Although we have eggs there too, but they are not edible for cooking, it’s for hatching.
However, the PAN PRO, Abubakar said from all indications, the organisation has stopped production of matured broilers and eggs for commercial purpose, as “there is a shortage of birds in the market now” and the demand is high.
“Now, as I’m talking to you, somebody called me and pleaded with me to get birds for him from our local farmers, which they will start selling prior to Christmas, this is something that has never happened before.”
“Although we were unable to have a meeting with the Olam management in September, but from our own side of investigation, we confirmed that they have stopped the production of both matured broilers and equally the eggs. That is why the price of eggs is almost N950 per crate now, unlike before.”
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