The Federal Government, under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, had in 2003 banned the importation of poultry products including turkey and chicken.
While the ban has been in effect for more than a decade, its enforcement, however, has been viewed by some stakeholders in the poultry industry as largely ineffective as these products are
still being smuggled into the country from Cotonou in Benin Republic, majorly. The resultant effect of this is that the local poultry industry has been exposed to undue competition, which is threatening its growth.
The local poultry industry, which some industry players argue can adequately meet the rising poultry needs of local consumers, is, however, plagued with some constraints which, if removed, will enhance its productivity.
Among such constraints are high cost of production, which, according to some stakeholders, is three times the cost of production of imported poultry products; shortage of components of poultry feeds (mainly maize and soy-beans); inadequate electricity supply; poor road networks across the country; sometimes, lack of proper handling by the poultry farmers themselves, and
high interest on agriculture loans. The industry, they say, is therefore struggling to remain competitive.
While the volume of poultry products’ import into the country may not be accurately determined since it’s brought in illegally, the Chief Executive Officer of BIC Farms Concept, Mr. Adebowale Onafowora, said it is huge. He said, “the volume can be estimated to be more than 1,000 tonnes monthly and they come majorly from Cotonou, Benin Republic, and India also, and they not safe.”
According to Onafowora, “it’s taking business out of the hands of real local poultry farmers. They bring in these poultry products very cheaply and sell them any amount and this poses undue competition with the local poultry farmers who are investing huge capital into the business and operating under harsh business environment.
“This is killing farmers and sending them out of business. If you borrow money to farm and you can’t pay back, it disturbs your chances of getting sup- port from banks.”
He is of the opinion, alongside several other stakeholders, that “government’s efforts at curbing poultry products import have not been effective. The importers still bribe their way into the country. The people at the land borders, who are also government officials, collect money from them and clear them.”
He stated that what is needed is not absolute ban on importation of these products, suggesting that government should use tariff to regulate import. According to him, “if you want to import, you pay heavy tariff and this can make the importers to look inward to invest in local poultry farming.
Recently, Olam invested N20 billion on poultry farming in Kaduna. So if there’s enough competition, it will drive importers to invest locally.” On the ability of the country’s poultry farmers to meet consumers’ demands, Onafowora said, “Nigeria’s poultry industry cannot meet local needs owing to challenges confronting poultry farmers including lack of power and poor road networks across the country.
For instance, if a poultry farmer has eggs to transport from his farm to a customer, he can lose them due to bad roads.
“If the incentives are right, more people will invest locally. A lot of people who planted maize last year didn’t plant this year because they lost money. And cost of feeding covers 70 per cent of livestock breeding including poultry. These are some of the supports that government can give to local poultry farmers.”
For the National President of Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Mr. Ezekiel Ibrahim, poultry products’ import is not necessarily killing the local poultry industry. In his submission, Ibrahim said if the government will intensify regulations and local producers scale up production, the country’s poultry industry will beat the competition posed by importation and even embark on export.
He said, “I don’t believe it’s import that is killing the local industry. When I came in last year as President of PAN, we approached government and now Shoprite and most big hotels in the country are using local chicken.”
Ibrahim, who lamented the porosity of the nation’s borders, explained that efforts at checking poultry products’ as well as other items’ importation into the country have been boosted, saying,
“we’ve engaged government and there is a committee headed by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, for increased surveillance of land borders.”
He stressed: “There’s no way we can stop importation completely but we can control it through government regulation, local farmers increasing production and creating awareness among the populace, of the dangers of consuming these imported poultry products which are preserved with
Another factor he blamed for the preference of local consumers for imported poultry products is cost. He said the cost of local products is higher than the smuggled ones because of cost of production, harping on the need to maximise the production of raw materials like soybeans and maize.
He said, “if our price is competitive, the importer will be discouraged.”
Ibrahim who lamented that, “marketing activity is very low among producers,” equally urged them to enhance their marketing strategies such as leveraging the various media and social media platforms to make their products known to the consuming public.
He as well advised them to invest in value addition to their business, saying, “delivery is important.
You must have delivery vans to supply products to your customers. If you are in Kaduna and someone in Jos needs eggs, you can deliver and charge a little extra.”
Among steps he believes should be taken by both government and local poultry farmers to beat importation include that, “the cost of production should be reduced for the farmer; interest rate for farming loans should be brought down and the purchasing power of the people (who are the consumers) should be enhanced. When people are not paid salaries, how will they have money to buy poultry products.”
He assured poultry local farmers that, “we are working towards exporting our products to neighbouring countries so that those who say they have glut can have where to sell their products. We have the capability to meet local poultry needs.”