Scientists harp on cattle genetic improvement as farmers commend CBN’s policy on milk imports
• ‘Policy without consultations, adequate plans won’t work’
Scientists have harped on cattle genetic improvement through cross-breeding for higher milk yield just as agricultural professionals, associations of farmers and entrepreneurs have expressed satisfaction over the proposed restrictions on importation of milk and other dairy products into the country by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
While speaking with The Guardian, they were optimistic that the restriction would ensure that companies importing the products invest in local production of the raw materials, which, in turn, would stimulate the economy through employment creation, circular flow of income and reduction of pressure of foreign exchange and inflation.
Professor Lateef Sanni, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB), said despite efforts of the government, there had been counter-efforts to also undermine the plan of the government on import substitutions.
“That is why I will not go against the decision of the CBN. The second point is that what the CBN is trying to do may enhance research and rapid upgrade of new dairy and milk products in the country,” he said.
Prof. Sanni added that there were several ways through which Nigeria could increase the volume of production, saying, “that is where the government is going. If any manufacturing entity has something it can bring in, it should add local content into it.
“What we have now are either imported or smuggled into the country. When will Nigeria grow?”
The administrator said the Nigerian animal scientists had been working to stimulate catalytic actions, “and soon, we would have higher yielding breeds of cattle in this country. The most important thing is how to enhance production and manufacturing capacity locally.”
Professor Morenike Dipeolu, a veterinary doctor and animal breeding specialist, also pitched her tent with the CBN on the decision, saying, “I think the angle of the CBN is good. It will stimulate local production. Even if we are going to bring some things in, let local production be stimulated.”
However, she advocated gradual restriction to avoid a total shutdown of the production that might result if the firms using such products are unable to secure raw materials.
“It is not a bad idea at all. But what will not be okay is a total shutdown; a total shutdown in the sense that they ban completely.
“Until we get to that point where we say no, we don’t need importation, we will not grow. It can be done. It is a right step in the right direction,” she said.
Dr Ademole Raji, a former Director of the Department of Animal Husbandry, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, and ex-provost of the Federal College of Animal Health and Production Technology, Ibadan, said genetic improvement of the available breeds of cattle is germane to productivity of local dairy.
Productivity of milk in Nigeria is about one litre per day due to poor genetic resources, compared to about 20 to 50 litres per cow daily using improved varieties.
Raji said: “The issue is that there is scarcity in term of low production, not that we are not producing but it is expensive. Most of our animals produce less than one litre of milk daily.
“So, continuous upgrading and improvement of genetic qualities in the animal that will produce more milk will increase and will even stimulate modern ranching.”
Raji, however, disclosed that local genetic improvement had been happening in Oyo north areas of Isheyin, Oyo and Shaki.
He said a popular milk-processing firm had been collecting milk daily from smallholding cattle owners around the areas before the CBN’s pronouncement, saying it appeared to be a very good model that other dairy companies could understudy, modify if possible and adopt.
The animal scientist also disclosed that as a result of cross-breeding experiments and improvement locally, breeds that could produce up to 10 litres of milk in the rainy season had been developed.
President of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeder Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Mohammadu Kariwu, when contacted in a telephone call on how the CBN policy would affect cattle herders, said, “I am not talking on telephone.”
Kabir Ibrahim, current president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), said if the CBN was opening another window for livestock development along with the current efforts, there was no harm in limited protectionism before achieving permanent peace between the herders and the farmers.
He said: “The Livestock Transformation Plan would drive the process sustainably if allowed to be deployed broadly. There is a lot to be done to encourage self-sufficiency in milk and protein production from the current livestock in Nigeria. It will take some time but it is doable.”
Also, AFAN chairman in Lagos State, Chief Olufemi Oke, said, “It is right to increase our local production first. But my opinion is that we have to start from somewhere. If the policy is not pronounced, we will not be serious about increasing production.
“It is not that we have sufficient production of rice as of the time the government said we were no longer importing rice.
“Nasir el-Rufai in Kaduna State has done well in dairy production in the state. It is a laudable project, and many other states can do so.
“Restricting the importation is a welcome idea to encourage our local production,” he added.
However, some agro-allied analysts said pronouncements without resolving herder-farmer crises, or consultation with processors, producers of local milk and dairy products would not help the industry and the country.
They critised making hasty pronouncements without wider consultations with value chain players to fashion out the modalities for integrated industrial plans, saying such hasty actions had been preventing proper design and implementation of policies not only in the agro-economic sector but also in other sectors.
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