Statistics paint a picture. In a recent revelation, the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) expressed deep concern over the closure of more than 50% of poultry farms in 2023.
This means for every two poultry farms in Nigeria in 2023, one closed shop. This figure, 50% represents half of all poultry farms. It also paints a figure that sheds light on the severe challenges gripping the sector.
The real unfortunate part is that this alarming development has significant repercussions both on the economy and public health.
The Nigerian poultry industry is crucial for the country’s economy, contributing to job creation and food security. The closures, therefore, cast a shadow over Nigeria’s economy with revenue losses, mass unemployment and the ripple effects on ancillary sectors.
Mojeed Iyiola, President, PAN, disclosed the distressing fact that the poultry industry is struggling to meet the soaring demand for its products.
This scarcity has led to a drastic increase in egg prices, reaching an exorbitant N3,500 per crate. A kilogram of chicken has since reached N3,800. The economic impact extends beyond the farms, affecting consumers who bear the brunt of inflated prices.
Experts point out that a key factor contributing to this crisis is the surge in production costs, primarily driven by the astronomical rise in maize prices, a crucial ingredient in poultry feed.
The price of maize skyrocketed by 79.23 per cent year-on-year, amplifying the challenges faced by poultry farmers who are grappling with increased operational costs.
Moreover, the ripple effect extends to the broader economy, impacting businesses reliant on poultry products and possibly leading to job losses within the sector.
The strain on the economy could worsen existing challenges, making it imperative to address the root causes of this crisis.
Beyond the economic realm, the health implications of this poultry crisis cannot be ignored. The shortage of poultry products, especially eggs, poses a threat to the nutritional balance of consumers.
Eggs are a vital source of protein and essential nutrients, and the scarcity raises concerns about potential nutritional gaps in the diet of many Nigerians.
Poultry, rich in lean protein, provides essential amino acids crucial for muscle repair, immune function, and overall health. Adequate protein intake supports weight management and helps in maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails.
Additionally, poultry is a good source of vitamins and minerals, contributing to a well-rounded and nutritious diet.
Poultry and poultry products are easily some of the most accessible sources of protein in the country. This is no longer the case.
A Way Forward
Poultry producers in Nigeria are grappling with a host of challenges that threaten the viability of their operations. These challenges include soaring production costs driven by the reliance on expensive (and sometimes) imported feed ingredients, insecurity and high energy expenses.
Insecurity is a big problem. It is pervasive across the middlebelt region, which is the food basket of the nation, with the burning of whole villages, bandits taxing farmers and widespread kidnapping for ransom. The security forces appear hapless.
Additionally, outbreaks of diseases such as avian influenza and Newcastle disease pose significant risks, aggravated by inadequate biosecurity measures. Furthermore, the industry is hindered by deficient infrastructure, low levels of technology adoption, and insufficient government support.
To address these multifaceted issues, comprehensive far-reaching solutions are needed.
For one, there must be concerted efforts to bring down production costs. Of course, to mitigate the burden of high production costs, efforts should focus on promoting local production of feed ingredients and exploring alternative, cost-effective energy sources such as renewable energy.
Government incentives and subsidies can encourage the domestic production of feed inputs, thereby reducing reliance on imports.
Two, improve disease management. Here we should look at implementing robust biosecurity measures crucial to prevent and control disease outbreaks.
This includes enhancing surveillance systems, promoting vaccination programs, and providing training to poultry farmers on disease prevention and control practices. Equally, strengthening veterinary services and establishing disease-free zones can help contain the spread of infectious diseases.
In addition, enhancing investments in infrastructure, such as modernized processing facilities and cold chain logistics, can improve efficiency and product quality.
Furthermore, promoting the adoption of technology, such as automated feeding systems and data analytics for monitoring health and productivity, can enhance productivity and competitiveness within the industry.
Moreover, consistent and targeted government policies are essential to provide a conducive environment for poultry producers.
This includes ensuring access to affordable credit, facilitating market access through trade agreements and tariff policies, and implementing measures to curb unfair competition from cheap imports.
Additionally, capacity-building initiatives and extension services can support small-scale poultry farmers in adopting best practices and improving productivity.
The government must also prioritize security. It must be willing to do what it must to get farmers back to the farms.
Furthermore, the crisis opens up an opportunity to explore the importation of maize for feed production. The thinking from experts is that diversifying the sources of maize could provide a buffer against local supply chain disruptions.
While this may not be a panacea, strategically importing maize can be a short-term solution to stabilize production costs and mitigate the impact on the poultry industry.
Besides, experts contend that investment in research and development is crucial to finding innovative solutions to the challenges facing the poultry industry. This includes research into alternative feed ingredients, breeding programs for disease-resistant poultry breeds, and the development of sustainable production practices.
In this year of “no gree for anybody”, we can all agree that the crisis in Nigeria’s poultry sector is a multi-faceted challenge with far-reaching consequences on both the economy and public health.
Addressing the root causes through sustained government interventions, innovative solutions, and collaboration is paramount to not only revive the poultry industry but also safeguard the well-being of the nation.
This is a call to action for policymakers, industry players, and the wider community to come together, addressing not only the immediate issues but also fortifying the foundations of a robust and secure poultry sector in Nigeria.
Nigeria, undoubtedly, can achieve sustainable growth and resilience within its poultry industry, by ensuring food security, economic development, and livelihood opportunities for millions of people involved in the sector. But haphazard methods will not cut it. It must actively pursue implementing comprehensive and holistic solutions.
By Elvis Eromosele
Eromosele, a corporate communication professional and public affairs analyst, wrote via: firstname.lastname@example.org