With the negative impacts of COVID-19 on Nigeria’s agriculture currently manifesting, the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), the umbrella body of poultry farmers in Nigeria, has raised the alarm that scarcity of poultry feeds has hit the sector. TAIWO HASSAN reports
Indeed, these are not the best of times for Nigerian farmers because of the destruction and damage the deadly COVID-19 has done to agriculture.
Expectedly, the lockdown brought trial period for many farmers with the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) groaning that the federal and state governments should have consulted them before going ahead with the lockdowns with its dire consequences already being felt in the country’s food chain.
In all of these, one group that has been mostly hit by the emergence of COVID-19 is the poultry sector of the economy.
Recently, the National President of the Poultry Farmers Association of Nigeria, Ezekiel Mam Ibrahim, revealed that members had lost 40 per cent, representing about a third of their resources, to the pandemic as they struggle with the pandemic-related input supply and market access challenges.
Ibrahim explained that the pandemic had severely affected the country’s agricultural sector value chains in all ramifications with poultry farmers being badly hit, thereby resulting to a fall in poultry market value.
He also blamed the members’ huge losses on lack of synergy between federal and state governments during the lockdown, which caused serious logistics and distribution challenges to the sector.
According to him, the lockdown across the country brought about restriction of movement of people since farmers cannot move to their farms with ease.
In short, government has correctly issued lockdown guidelines that exempt farm operations and supply chains, but implementation problems leading to labour shortages and falling prices are yet to be rectified in the sector, causing huge losses in poultry business.
The PAN president alluded to the fact that the pandemic was bad for it members.
For instance, the poultry farmer said the pandemic has had a knock-on effect on farmers growing maize and soya beans, essential ingredients which respectively constitute 60 per cent and 25 per cent of poultry feed, adding that this was one of the ways the losses were recorded in the poultry farming.
The poultry farmers decried the scarcity and continuous rise in price of maize, stressing that it posed a major threat to their businesses and food security in the country.
Particularly, the farmers pointed out that maize, which constitutes over 50 per cent of poultry feed, was currently scarce and where available, the prices have skyrocketed and cannot be afforded by majority of them.
They feared that scarcity of poultry feeds could bring collapse in the country’s poultry business, with many of them going out of jobs if nothing is done to address the daunting issues at hand.
For Mrs. Blessing Dominic, a Plateau State-based poultry farmer who rears both broiler and layer birds, her birds no longer feed properly due to the unavailability of feeds as a result of the scarcity of maize.
She said: “The painful thing is that there is very limited feed available in the market. When we complain to the local companies, they said they can’t produce feed due to maize scarcity. At this point, we are really suffering, the government should do something and help us survived.”
She added that she had to lay off some of her staff recently because her business was becoming unprofitable.
Similarly, Emwinghare Osaze, a Benin-based poultry farmer, described the current scarcity and increase in the price of maize as a threat to poultry business.
“Government is trying to discourage the importation of frozen chicken and majority of us poultry farmers are trying to go into broiler production and processing. But with this increase in the price of maize and the non-availability, I really don’t see how we are going to survive,” he said.
Also, Chief Alfred Mrakpor, the Delta State Chairman of Poultry Association of Nigeria, disclosed that the rising maize prices was causing uncertainty in the country’s poultry sector.
He described the scarcity of maize as a threat to Nigeria’s food security.
He said: “The rising cost of maize is threatening livelihoods of small businesses in Nigeria. It is not only poultry farmers’ investments that are threatened, but also other players in the value chain such as feed producers, chicken and egg vendors, processors, grain traders, veterinary doctors and drug vendors among others, thus plunging the economy into deeper crisis.”
Also, Austin Eze, a maize supplier, said the poultry industry was in dire situation as a result of the scarcity.
“We are getting to the point where there will almost be nothing available for anybody to use.
“On a normal day, when you go to buy maize in some markets, you can fill 40 trucks. Currently, you can’t even fill a truck. The scarcity of maize is a major problem right now,” he noted.
Similarly, Shehu Muazu, who also supplies grains, said his search for maize to supply his customers had been fruitless.
He said that the high prices and the scarcity of the crop had instilled fear amongst animal feed manufacturers.
Muazu said: “For past three weeks, I have been receiving calls from feed mills that they need more maize but we can’t find any because of the current scarcity. This is the business I depend on to make ends meet. If I can’t supply, then I also have a problem because I won’t be able to feed my family.”
As part of short term solution, PAN is calling on the Federal Government to allow the importation of maize to supplement the current domestic supply deficit so as to avoid total destruction in the poultry sector.