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Insurgency can spread throughout Nigeria if hunger is not combated – Poultry President

The poultry industry has been on the brink of collapse for several months, with farmers unable to feed their birds and produce to meet Nigeria’s growing needs. Ezekiel Ibrahim, president, Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) had a chat with Caleb Ojewale where some of the challenges were discussed, and possible solutions also explored. Excerpts:

With all the challenges in the poultry industry particularly feeds in terms of maize and soybean, how are poultry farmers coping or finding alternatives?

The situation we have found ourselves is rather unfortunate. I say this because it is an avoidable situation if we had a foresight of the challenges. These challenges did not happen overnight and even if they did, we should have looked for ways to mitigate the hardship. In 2019 we had low production due to insecurity in the country and while we were still managing that, COVID-19 came in.

With the current situation, we have unfortunately pushed this country to the periphery of starvation because people underrated the importance of poultry. Without poultry you cannot grow maize successfully, because more than 50 percent of maize grown in Nigeria is done using organic fertilizers and organic manure which come from the poultry.

Read Also: Over 5m jobs at stake as poultry farmers lament high cost of maize

Unfortunately the reality is that we are going to have it tough next year because November is the harvest season. With the hardship we are experiencing, if we do not put our acts together, I don’t know where Nigeria will be in 2022 and this is because the issue of insecurity is increasing daily and it’s a planting season

Secondly, organic manure used to supplement fertilizer is unaffordable for farmers now as most poultry farms have collapsed. Every economy is determined by the disposable income of its citizens so when poultry collapsed, most egg producers were forced to sell at a loss.

A lot of them sold their stock during the Salah festive period, so it is not going to be easy to see eggs for purchase. We have been warning severally to allow the importation of maize to carry us to the next harvesting season, but the CBN is insisting on its decision saying they have maize pyramids. When we have pyramids it means we have enough but we can’t do pyramids amid scarcity. If you go to the market now you can hardly see maize in the market.

If dollar is given at the official rate and tariffs are excluded for the food industry, it will be a win-win situation because (poultry) farmers will produce at breakeven point.

The anchor borrowers scheme ideally should operate through the commodity associations but they gave to family and friends.

The CBN said they have enough maize and they even made a pyramid of maize in Katsina, a state that has been experiencing banditry and also Zamfara, Kebbi, Benue, Southern Kaduna, these are the main maize producing areas. Where did they get enough maize to build pyramid and what is the price? Everybody in this country knows that there is hunger.

By the admission of the CBN governor that we have a gap of 4.5 million MT of maize and that poultry farmers consume 60 percent, but the government is pushing out 50,000 MT. How can that bridge the gap?

Since the CBN is not providing dollars for people to import maize, why are farmers not able to import it on their own using their funds even though sourcing on the parallel market may be more expensive?

Since November 2020, there has been a shortfall of maize all over the world. There was challenge in Brazil, China, Argentina and even California but the US will always have enough reserves.

If today we are to import maize with the open rate of dollar in the market, then the maize coming to Nigeria will be very expensive because our naira is devalued and if there is no activity how will the naira appreciate?

The poultry industry that is creating employment will be forced to collapse, the manufacturing sector is operating between 30-35 percent capacity, so where are the activities that will help the naira appreciate?

We have to survive as people first, so, what is our priority? Is it buying cars for government officials or providing food on the table for people? You cannot solve insurgency with hunger where majority of the people cannot afford two square meals

Insurgency started from the northeast and moved to north west and sooner or later it will move to the southwest. If care is not taken it will spread faster because there is desperate hunger. The approach to insecurity first is multifaceted and feeding the citizenry is crucial.

Read Also: Nigeria’s $6bn maize industry and the supply shortfall

Basically, you’re saying poultry farmers cannot import on their own because of the exchange rate, but if the farmers had imported with the parallel market rate would the industry have fared better right?

Let’s assume Maize in Nigeria is N290,000 per MT, now with the exchange rate in the parallel market which is about N500 to a dollar, if you need $500 that is already N250,000 which is just the cost price. When you import you have to pay charges, then the government will charge tariff because they are desperate in getting revenue, hence it is much more expensive to import and many farmers cannot afford it.

What we are asking is that palliatives are given to key sectors that will impact the lives of the citizenry. If dollar is given at the official rate and tariffs are excluded for the food industry, it will be a win-win situation because (poultry) farmers will produce at breakeven point.

If prices are also regulated, farming activities will improve and production will increase, thus the risk of food scarcity will reduce.

Unfortunately our system of government does not recognize the common man. In America for instance Joe Biden is pumping over two trillion dollars to cushion the effect of COVID-19 and most of this is going to the food sector. Here, even the palliatives that was said to be shared in the poultry sector have no visible record of beneficiaries.

Similarly, the 50,000 MT of maize released last year have no known record of beneficiaries even though some names were mentioned in the paper

Lending to the Agric sector was N3.7 trillion in 2020, which is the highest in five years and in 2019 it was N2.7 trillion, would you say this funding to agriculture reflected in the poultry industry?

The way the money is being disbursed is not falling into the right hands. CBN even suspended the anchor borrowers’ scheme due to alleged high levels of corruption, this was in either March or April. This raises unanswered questions as to why there are scanty operations even though lending has increased.

The anchor borrowers scheme ideally should operate through the commodity associations but they gave to family and friends.

In 2019 the poultry association was asked to collect the details of farmers allover Nigeria for CBN intervention. As requested, we submitted for those keeping up to 50 chickens across Nigeria but since we submitted nobody has called us for any disbursement but we keep seeing in the press that the CBN has done different intervention programs.

 

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