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Maize, soybeans shortage threaten Nigeria’s chicken meat sector amid rising price of feed, farmers lament insecurity

Frustrated by unemployment but consoled by love for agriculture, a master’s degree holder, Mayowa Oyinkanola in 2014 ventured into poultry farming. His alias, Agbeloba (Farmers are king), reveals his love for farming and this shows in his dedication to his poultry farm in Ogbomoso, Oyo State.

But a few years later, his farm is now empty of birds. He sold off the birds because he could no longer cope with the inflated prices of maize, soybean and other essentials to keep the poultry going including constraints in the distribution of eggs and poultry products.

Mayowa’s case captures the present situation of some poultry farmers in the country. Some of them have reportedly closed down their farms, sold out a portion of their birds or delved into other areas of agriculture due to the rising cost of poultry feeds.

Speaking to our correspondent, Mayowa said he would not give up easily but try to reposition his farm for more investment opportunities.

Challenges facing poultry business

From February to August this year, there were no birds (Broilers) at the Iddo, Oyo State-located poultry farm of a large scale farmer identified only as Atanda. The farm was neither ravaged by bird flu nor ran down by incompetent hands. Scarcity and increase in the prices of feeds alongside a sharp reduction in sales were responsible for the situation.

Atanda, who is the farm manager, said he began raising layers to keep his farm running but he barely broke even because sales were still not favourable and the prices of feed rose.

Also, another large scale poultry farmer and journalist, Mr Ayodele Ojo, said the recent increase in the prices of poultry feeds made him sell off some of his birds because of the cost of feeding them, adding that his “profit margin had been wiped off.”

He added that the current situation caused one of his poultry farmer friends, identified only as Ola, to put the farm he invested about N6m on up for sale. He stated that when no buyer was forthcoming, he diverted into piggery.

Pricy, essential maize, soybeans

According to Poultry Hub Australia, the dominant grain in poultry feed is corn, also referred to as maize. Although various countries and regions use different grains, in the US and most Asian countries, “corn is by far the most important energy source for all poultry feed” whole wheat, barley and rye were used in other countries such as Canada, Australia and China. Corn contains 3300kcal of energy.

Also, soybean meal is a major source of vegetable protein diet in poultry feeds. It contains 48.0 per cent protein. However, prices of these grains in the past five months have been on the rise, further triggering an increase in the price of feed and poultry products.

A report from the Poultry Farmers Association noted that the price of soybeans increased by about 300 per cent and the price of maize increased by 170 per cent.

The same case is currently being witnessed in Turkey as reported by Feednavigator, a news and analysis website on the global animal feed industry. It showed that corn and soybeans were the main inputs in poultry feed production in that country.

Though Turkey grows soybeans and corn, the volumes produced were not enough to meet the poultry industry. As a result, it imports 40 per cent of its corn and 97 per cent of soybeans. The news outlet noted that the development made the costs of feed to account for 80 per cent of the total expenditure in poultry production. The drought situation in Turkey was reported to have also affected its internal production.

In December 2020, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), placed a ban on food importation and directed the Central Bank of Nigeria to withhold forex to food importers to boost local production. The CBN in 2020 approved the importation of maize to four grain processing companies for the months of August, September and October.

Farmers’ lamentation

Apart from diseases and bird flu that can ravage the poultry farming industry, rising costs of feeds caused by insecurity, inflation and lack of a price controlling system are the factors currently bedevilling the sector. These led some farmers of diverse ages and experience in the business to sell their birds, quit poultry farming for piggery or other farming systems.

Some of the poultry farmers said they took loans to keep the business running while offering eggs at giveaway prices to stay afloat.

Ojo, who started poultry farming two years ago, noted that then 25kg of layers’ feeds cost N2,600. However, in October, he bought the same quantity for about N5,595. He noted that the increase led to a rise in the price of eggs.

He stated, “As of two months ago, the price of a bag of starter’s feed for broilers was less than N7, 000, it is now over N8,000. Last week, (October), it increased by N200. Two years ago, a crate of an egg at farm price was N700 but now, we sell between N1, 450 and N1,500.”

Commenting on factors driving the increase in feeds, Ojo blamed the situation on insecurity and ban on importation.

He said, “The insecurity in the country, especially in the North is a major factor affecting the poultry sector. If you look at the composition of the feed, the bulk of it is maize and soybeans and they are mostly grown in the North. Most of the companies that produce and sell feed get their raw materials from the North except sometime earlier in the year when the CBN intervened and allowed some major millers to import grains into the country.

“So what we are producing in the country is not enough to meet the demand of the millers, therefore, they need to import the crops. But the government thinks we are self-sufficient and that what we produce is enough to eat. Meanwhile, the reality of it is that we have not got to that level. Rice is still smuggled every day into the country.”

He added that because the business lacked a price controlling system, the middlemen and retailers get more profits than the farmers. He stated that the price variations from the farms to the retailer should be minimal.

He said, “As it is obtainable in developed countries such that if there are variations it will be minimal. At supermarkets, a crate of eggs go for N1,900 meanwhile they are sold for N1500 at the farm.”

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