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Neck breaking Inflation: Poultry sector heads to complete collapse, farmers cry out

Poultry farmers and other stakeholders have cried out that sector is headed to a complete collapse in a matter of months unless urgent interventions are immediately implemented.

This is as multiple crises have caused a sharp rise in price of eggs in the past months with retail cost now averaging N3,600 per crate, depending on location and size, and N150 for a single egg.

Many poultry farmers have since abandoned the businesses, saying they can no longer cope with operational expenses. Many of them said they cannot continue to run at losses while servicing their loans.

National President of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) and Chairman of Sunchi Integrated Farms Limited, Sunday Ezeobiora, lamented that their pleas to the government and relevant agencies have fallen on deaf ears.

He said they expected the government to come to their rescue since last year when the situation became very dire, and the cost of eggs started skyrocketing due to the harsh operating environment.

Revealing that the problem started in 2020 during the lockdown when they did not sell anything and lost millions of naira, he said last year’s naira redesign crisis put the final nail in the coffin, sending the industry to its knees.

“Poultry farmers’ losses average 60 million eggs daily and we could not sell anything during that period. Many farmers buried their eggs and chickens. As many as 300, 000 birds were buried. How does one come back from such a huge loss?” he asked.

The cost of maize and soybean meal – the two important components of feed (75 per cent) – has skyrocketed to a believable height in the last month. In 2022, one metric tonne of maize and soya beans sold for N170,000 each. Last December, it sold for about N330, 000 while a metric tonne of maize has almost doubled to N600,000 as at press time, a situation that is complicated by scarcity.

Soyabean is worse, currently retailing for N620,000 and unavailable. As a result of the forex crisis, imported pre-mix (amino acids), which constitutes the remaining other 25 per cent of feeds, now retails for N15,000 from N3,500 in 2022.

Last December, it sold for about N8000. Many farmers are looking for cheaper alternatives, which is unfortunately affecting layers as the birds cannot produce enough eggs because of the poor diet, forcing up the price of eggs to even go higher.

Last year, a crate of eggs retailed for between N1700-2000. In 2022, it sold for between N900-N1000. Ezeobiora pointed out that Nigerians’ nutritional needs are being threatened as previously affordable proteins like eggs and chicken are no longer affordable.

“We do not have the money or willpower to import anything again. Government should please release grain reserves to save this sector and our investments from total collapse,” he said.

He added that they still almost sell at a loss just to clear stocks and chickens, stressing they cannot continue in this manner as they are in business to make a profit.

He revealed that the soyabeans situation is worryingly sad as most of the maize and soybeans farmers prefer to take the produce across the border illegally so that they can sell in foreign currencies for FX.

“They refuse to sell locally to us, that is one of the major reasons why the product is scarce and very expensive. How can the price of a single metric tonne double in just one month?

“Last year, we raised a life weight (commercial broilers) for N2,000, this year, it is almost N5000. As maize keeps going up, the cost of chicken and eggs will continue to rise.

“We have written to the government at all levels, ministers and stakeholders and we have gotten no single response from any of them till now. Our profit margin was five percent before, now it is about one per cent. Sometimes, we make nothing but still have to sell because we cannot keep the eggs,” he said.

Pointing out that insecurity is another major challenge they face, he regretted that most poultry farms in remote areas have abandoned their farms due to constant kidnappings.

“Last year, eight different farms were attacked, and their staff kidnapped. Two managers of different farms were sadly killed. All these farms have shut down and some decided to relocate abroad. We are all experiencing food insecurity and rising food prices and if the government refuses to do something urgently, what we are experiencing now will be child’s play compared to what we will experience in the coming months,” he noted.

President of Poultry Farmers, Ojo zone, Lagos and lecturer in the department of Mass Communication, Lagos State University of Science and Technology, Dipo Adedoyin, lamented that the industry is on the verge of collapse particularly because of feed.

“A crate of eggs from the farm is N3000, this has never happened. Feed keeps going up weekly and we are running at a loss. Ideally, 200 birds feed on a bag and the average cost of a bag is between N13,000 and N14,000. Two hundred birds should give you about five or six crates of eggs, multiply that by N3000 and you get between N15,000 and N18,000. Out of this, N14,000 has gone on feed alone, excluding workers’ salaries, transportation, treatments (which is very important) and other costs. You can see we are running at a loss.”

Pointing out that it is harder for larger farms that have to sell at lower prices to offset the eggs as quickly as possible, she said it is no wonder many are folding up.

“I sold my layers during the festivities and when I wanted to stock up again, day-old chicks have risen to N800, putting my costs at N1.5 million. I am afraid of stocking up again because of the cost of feed. If I buy 500 birds at the rate of N4000, that is N2 million, how can I feed 500 birds and break even when the cost of feed keeps going up?

“In the past, poultry farming was good; the profit was not fantastic, but we relied on turnover. We could take loans to expand because it is fast-moving. Now, if you take a loan for a poultry business, just turn yourself over to the police because you cannot pay it back,’’ she said.

She lamented that the same government that has been urging more people to embrace farming is making the sector unbearable for them, forcing the remaining players in the space to abandon it. If care is not taken, she warned that a crate of eggs would hit N5000 by year-end.

“I am not being a doomsday prophet; it is the truth. Many poultry farmers have closed shop in the last year because they cannot keep up. Come to my cluster, many farmers have closed shop, hoping to come back when the situation improves. We keep adding N100, N200 to the price daily because feed is going up daily. Calculate it and see how many eggs will be by December of this year,” she said.

Lagos State’s Chief Nutrition Officer, Olubunmi Braheem, expressed worry that the galloping price of eggs will lead to an increase in malnourished children all over the country.

“The first two years of life are very important, and they need a high dose of protein, which is obtained from eggs, fish and poultry. Unfortunately, all these I mentioned have gotten out of the reach of many and will affect vulnerable children (under five) more than others. Growing children need eggs but because of the cost, many families can no longer afford it.”

She regretted that many have turned to termites and edible maggots (palm tree beetle larvae) as a source of protein, adding that this is not advisable for young children.

The challenge could trigger a worse-case malnutrition crisis in the country. Already, the 2022 Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Demographic Statistics Bulletin, said nine out of every 10 Nigerian children do not eat eggs. The same report said the same proportion of children do not consume any form of dairy product (fish, meat, egg, chicken, cheese or milk) at all and lack basic foods required to provide adequate food nutrients.

Expectedly, it added that because of the deficiency, malnutrition among under-five children in the country is worrisome with a per cent facing severe acute malnutrition (SAM) while four per cent faced with moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) just as and 15 per cent of them had a high risk of acute malnutrition (RAM).

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recommends a minimum per capita daily protein intake of 53.8 grammes. While the daily intake is 64g globally, it is 40.4g in Nigeria. Inadequate protein intake among children has been linked to slow growth in children, stunting, malnutrition, wasting and underweight.

 

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