As controversies continue to trail closure of borders by the Federal Government, poultry farmers, hatchers and other participants in the poultry value chain hold divergent views on the effects of the policy as prices of their products skyrocket, reports AKINWALE ABOLUWADE.
Just like several others, Mrs Mary Awe was particularly agitated about the closure of land borders by the Federal Government which, she said has affected her trade. A farmer and vaccine expert, Mrs Mary Awe, lamented that the recent closure of the nation’s border has generally taken a bad toll on agriculture business adding that the survival of many people are being threatened. She stated that only a few people are profiting from the border closure at the expense of the larger majority. With close to 20-year experience in poultry business, she said agriculture as the largest employer of labour in Nigeria should have been handled with caution and consideration.
Mrs Awe said: “We are not happy with the way government imposes policies on the people without first considering the implications and addressing the nitty-gritty. To put things straight, in poultry business some syndicates are now taking undue advantage of the ban on imported poultry products as well as other agricultural products in the country by hiking prices. In poultry business particularly, those who process eggs into chics are the worse culprits. They make so much money and that is at the expense of the poultry farmers because they are the ones who determine the price.
“Immediately after the ban that was placed on importation of frozen poultry products, those processing eggs to chicks jerked up the price to record high from N200 each to N420. That is unfair. The price of feed has not changed, transportation cost has not changed, other cost of production has not changed, so the increase should have been marginal. However, they fixed the price arbitrarily and government does not intervene. It is sad that interest of the citizens is not really given a priority attention here.”
She said government could not just wake up from the wrong side of the bed and come up with a policy without carefully brainstorming with stakeholders in order to jointly consider the positive and negative effects of the policy.
Another female farmer, Mrs Olubunmi Alarape, also noted that the closure of borders had affected many things with a lot of people bearing the brunt. In her opinion, government should have encouraged increased local production of products that are being banned first before declaring the ban and border closure policy.
“If local production of banned items were given a boost before the borders were closed, prices of affected products would not have shut up so high and the citizens would not have had difficulty. Now businesses are seriously affected because the purchasing power of participants has drastically reduced as a result of the increase in price. Those who spend N5,000 to buy a crate of broiler for meat production will now need to pay N22,000 to buy that same quantity. That is not ideal; no government should allow its citizens to face such a tough measure.
“The sad reality is that Nigerians are not the ones that are benefitting from the closure of borders. Federal Government policy is merely enriching the Lebanese. You will recall that a lot of local investors left the farm during the bird flu epidemic. At that time, large poultry farms were abandoned because many local investors suffered a huge loss. When that happened, the foreigners came into the business and took advantage of the situation by renting big farms and by taking loans.
“Now the Lebanese and others are the big players. They are the ones that are majorly into breeding business. They hatch the eggs and sell at a very exorbitant price leaving little profit margin for the middle men and the farmers. That is unfair and it is affecting the local people that act as middle men. Government now encourages foreigners through access to loan from Bank of Agriculture but local farmers are turned back from the bank as a result of the stiff conditions. The foreigners are in business and they determine price. They now supply day old chicks to middle men at N410 and sometimes sell for higher than that.”
Narrating her personal ordeal, Mrs Alarape said she made a deposit for the supply of day old chicks at the rate of N370 the previous week only to be told later that the price had increased to N410. “They eventually asked me to pay N400 each. As I speak, I have not been supplied and my business is seriously affected. Go round town now and you will find that there is no imported frozen chicken in the cold rooms. You can hardly see local frozen chicken too because we were not adequately prepared for the ban,” she said.
According to her, against the old price range of N800 to N900, a table size frozen chicken now sells between N1,800 and N2,000. The woman said: “At a point, I noticed that demand for the old layers that I was trying to dispose suddenly increased so I decided to jerk up the price to N1300 from N1,000. Few months ago, we were selling old layers between N800 and N1000.
“With the rate at which things are going, I am afraid that people might end up buying chicken for N7000 or even higher during Christmas. My advice to government is that they should intervene by encouraging local farmers to up the stake. If you look round you will see that meat and fish are very expensive as a result of closure of borders across the country. Chicken that used to be a veritable alternative means of protein is now more expensive.
“Government should review the policy because the masses are suffering. Even if things are difficult in the land, the people should be able to eat. It is just as if government is using the review of border policy to favour a small cell of people and the whole thing is bouncing back on the masses. What is government trying to do? Government is telling someone who doesn’t have food on the table not to allow his children to beg for bread, yet they are punishing us. It is not about chicken alone; imagine rice being sold for N700 per measure.”
Speaking on his experience in supply of chicks to farmers, Mr Olamilekan Sofoluwe, said: “Many of our customers are finding it difficult to do business because the price of the product has double presently.” Saying that the situation had not been this challenging in his 7-year-experience in agriculture business, he explained: “The closure of borders has affected our business in a way that hatchets don’t have to stress themselves with regards to competing with imported frozen chicken from Cotonou and other neighbouring Africa countries as done in recent past.
“Now, the fact is that the hatchers now have the monopoly of the trade. A hatcher can now hatch the chic, raise it, kill it, dress and sell it to consumers without him or her competing with the imported brand. In the past, they had limited options but now things have changed; they have several options and they are now behaving as kings. They can sell day old chicks; they can sell between six or seven weeks or sell at table size.”
However, he said that there is increased pressure on the hatchers and the middle men because prices of chicks and chicken have gone up. “As we speak, a day old broiler sells in Ibadan for N420. There are 50 birds in a pack. This means that you would buy a crate of day old chicks for N22,000. Before the closure of borders we were selling a crate between N5, 000 and N6,000. Maximum price at peak period was N10,000.
“If at the time we were selling for N5,000 you could buy five crates, now you cannot afford to buy more than one crate because from your N25,000, you will just be able to buy only one crate for N22,000. Most of our customers are now cutting down their orders,” he said.
Many middle men are adjusting fast to the prevailing market reality in the country. Before the closure of borders, Sofoluwe and many others transport chicks and chicken to the neighbouring African countries. Not anymore. With the closure of borders, they now supply farmers locally. He said: “Now, we only sell within the country; we sell across the 36 states of the country. I have customers in Calabar, Cross Rivers, Kano, Sokoto, Kebbi, Anambra, everywhere. But it is difficult now because many of them are discouraged by the price. When that happens, it will affect your profit margin or we end up making no gain at all.
“At times we end up selling the stock to customers at the cost price. We do this to maintain our relationship with the customers.”
He advised both the state and the Federal Government to encourage young graduates to farming. Making reference to the practice in Saudi Arabia, he said “after school, government gives chicks to graduates free of charge and send veterinary doctors to their farms to treat the chicks free of charge stating that the farmers would only need to monitor their stock.
“In that country, when the chicken gets to table size government would help the farmers to sell them to civil servants at a reduced price. If this model is adopted in Nigeria, the common man would have access to required amount of protein intake and this would, invariably, boost the health of the people.”
However, he said that the experience of farmers in Nigeria was lamentable as they end up with the dilemma of how to sell their products after raising the chicken.
Elder Samson Oladeji said that unless government intervenes in the business, many farmers might soon be out of business as a result of high price of the product which makes it difficult for them to buy. Elder Oladeji said: “The situation that we are facing is so challenging. In my entire years as a poultry farmers, price had not gone this high. Majority of our customers are consumers rearing small number in their yards. Now our customers can hardly buy from us. We make gain of less than N10 per chick because we would feed and transport them.
“To me, government did not prepare for border closure. Real farmers are not having access to loan. When you ask for loan, banks will ask you for collateral. The same thing applies to rice, a staple food. A bag of rice is now between N28,000 and N30,000. Without improving local production, it is not ideal to close the boarders.
“Government should always consider the masses when implementing policies because the masses are always in the eye of the storm. Now sales have dropped. With drop in sales consumption rate would also drop. Our customers complain every time that the price is unbearable. Before the closure of borders, I used to sell average of 100 cartons of day old chicks per market day but things have changed. I now sell less than 30 crates of day old chicks per market day.
“Price of turkey is now unbearable. Price of cockerel has not changed, yet sales are not attractive because for cockerel, it takes minimum of seven months to mature to table size.”
A farmer who specialises in hatching of broiler eggs (prefers anonymity) confirmed that commercial hatching of broiler eggs is now more lucrative than ever as a result of the ban being placed on importation of the product. He said that to grow local production and bring local investors to prosperity, importation should be regulated.
He said: “The fact is that Nigeria is a strange country where the local potentials are relegated to the background to the advantage of the foreign investors. Such a practice is dangerous for the economy and should not be encouraged. Nigeria has the potential to be a great nation and its highest potential, like in any nation, is the human capital. However, the way to grow a developing or a budding economy is to give unfettered opportunity to the locals.
“Although we cannot wish away or rule out the importance of foreign participation as it encourages healthy competition when activities within the clime are carefully regulated, it is a great idea to nurture local potentials. Local potentials are the real base of an enduring advancement drive.”
However, the Chairman, Poultry Farmers Association of Nigeria in Oyo State, Mr Asimiyu Oyetunde, described the closure of borders as a welcome development. He said that the decision to close the boarders was long overdue considering its advantages.
According to him, local investors had suffered for long as a result of the unregulated border activities before the current closure. He said the recent closure of borders by President Muhammadu Buhari gave opportunity to local businesses to thrive, adding, “Smuggling of banned products through backdoor is now impossible. As a result of this, local farmers can make good profit.
“Now, demands on local products have increased and this is good for the economy. I can confirm to you now that demand for frozen products that are produced locally has increased. Our people have gradually begun to value local products; they now consume local rice and livestock products than before when emphases were on foreign goods regardless of their quality.
“At the moment, demand has outstripped supply because there is no imported frozen turkey anymore in the country. With this, government is generating more revenue. Whereas importers of frozen poultry products are now in for tough time, government should not let off its guard because nothing should be done at the expense of the country. We cannot continue to enrich other nations at our own expense. With time, if we shut our boarders to importation, those countries that are flooding our market with substandard imported products would begin to buy poultry products from Nigeria.”
Mr Oyetunde pointed out that the closure of borders; however, had no effect on prices of pullet and cockerel because unlike the broiler, the breeder (parent stock), turkey and the cockerels are not being imported. Findings also showed that the border closure does not have any effect on price of egg.
Checks by Saturday Tribune shows that price of egg remains stable in the market as importation of egg-powder used in manufacturing beverages, biscuit, bread etc. has not been banned.
Asked why many people prefer to buy imported chicken and frozen turkey before the closure of borders, Mr Oyetunde said: “The reason is that the imported ones are cheaper. But things have changed within the short period when the border was closed.”
Oyetunde stressed that just as some people are lamenting, others are happy because the closure of borders has led to creation of new business opportunities. One of the new businesses that are now springing up in the poultry farming chain is the live chicken selling spots.
In major towns and cities across the country, more points where table size chicken are sold have sprung up with the consumers patronising their wares more than before.Read Full Story