Sola Ojo, Kaduna
Kaduna, the old capital of Northern Nigeria, has come a long way over the years. It remains the political melting pot of the North.
Due to its location and easy access, the city has an unprecedented influx of rural-urban migration, resulting in huge population. Based on the 2006 population census projection, there are about nine million people spread across the 23 local government areas of the state.
Food, therefore, is an imperative in the state. Not surprising, the state is a hub for the buying and selling of food items, especially livestock, from the East, West and the nearby states in the North.
The livestock are sold in many markets such as Kawo, Central, Gumi, Katin Gwari, Station, Monday and Kasuwan Baicci. However, Bakin-Dogo Market, situated at the end of the Central Market in Tudun-Wada, appears to be the largest market for livestock in the state. In the past, big time poultry farmers used to dispose huge numbers of live birds, turnover them over rapidly and smile to their banks.
Hajiya Farida Usman remarked that Bakin Dogo Market used to be the best market for poultry products: “I do come around like twice in a month to buy broilers for the family. Since we have access to fresh ones at affordable prices depending on your bargaining options. I live at Taiwo Road where we have many frozen food sellers. But, we always want something fresh, except on rear occasions.”
But the good old past seems a light years away. Today, the market is a shadow of what it used to be. Sales have dropped to an all time low, same for profit margin just as the smiles, once on the brow of most of the poultry farmers and sellers, have all dried up.
A senior citizen, Baba Ali, said he has been in poultry business for decades, but remarked that the near absence of buyers of poultry products, especially birds, has never been this bad: “I have been here for as long as I can remember. This market is for all categories of people here in Kaduna. We have people from even the Air Force and the Army, coming around to buy what we sell.
«One key thing is that we have boys here that understand what our customers want. From 8 am till 6 pm when we have the best of sales, there are boys that can help you to dress the chicken. They charge as low N50 or N100 per bird. I trade in broilers, old layers, turkey, dock, pigeons and guinea fowl. Broiler price starts from N1,200 to N4,500. Guinea fowl is between N1,500 and N2,500.
«Turkey starts from N15,000 but you can get it below that price depending on how many you want and your bargaining power. I sometimes sell rams too. It used to be good business because from it, I married my wives and had children. Some are in school and some have learnt the same trade.”
He, however, added that the market has taken a dive for the worse in the last few years: “The situation was probably as a result of the series of crises we have survived here in Kaduna. Many of my regular customers are no longer coming around. Some have relocated to other places and some have even left the state.
“We thank God now that Kaduna is peaceful and we are praying for this peace to last longer so we can have a return of the old experience here at Bakin Dogo”
Muhammed Nura, 25, sells live birds at Bakin Dogo Market: “Some people who travelled for Sallah are yet to return. But even before then, the market was not moving like that. Sometime, we don’t make gains because people are not ready to pay more. And the more you keep them, the more you feed them and the more drugs you buy for them. You even stand the risk of losing them to disease.
“We pay between N1,000 to N1,500 levy every month. But, we have not been enjoying the presence of government in the market apart from collecting levies. We will appreciate if they can come and arrange this place for us with shade and clean water for those that kill fowls.
“Like during dry season, we don’t find the business easy at all. We don’t make profit then because you buy more drugs and sell less. But if we have better shade, it will help us. Government generates good money from here on a monthly basis.”
Ummi Mustapha, a young lady on visit from Niger State said: “I have been here for about 30 minutes. I was only waiting for them to dress my chicken. But, people are not much as I expected based on what she told me. She told me today is Saturday and I have to come early to avoid the rush hour purchase. But the market is scanty though the sellers are standing by their cages.”
Despite the steady drop in patronage at the market, many are of the view that the situation will soon pick up. They added that the market for birds and poultry products has never been steady in the first place.
Mr Matthias Acha explained that with recent reported policy restriction on the importation of food and poultry items, poultry farmers are likely to smile again. He argued that left with no option, buyers of poultry products would find their way back to the market: “The recent celebration of Sallah has taken much from the finances of many residents. As soon as they are richer by month end, the market will return to life.”