The recent importation of 262,000 metric tons of maize has saved Nigeria from a food crisis, poultry farmers in Nigeria have said.
The poultry industry in the country, which reportedly lost about N1.5 trillion to the Coronavirus pandemic, said that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) took the right step by granting import waivers to four companies describing the policy as a commendable way of bridging the shortfall in maize production.
The President of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Mr Ibrahim Ezekiel Mam told our reporter that the import waiver was a follow up to President Muhammadu Buhari’s intervention when he granted the association 5,000 metric tons of maize from the country’s strategic grains reserve.
He said that PAN was in total support of the maize importation as part of the measures by the Federal Government to bridge the supply gap forced on local farmers by several factors, including flooding, which has ravaged several farms and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The PAN President further said: “A lot of damage was done to our farms by Covid-19. Day-old chicks, for instance, were lost due to suffocation as the result of multiple checkpoints on the highways and curfews imposed by the state governments,” adding that farmers had to quickly bury their chicks and bury eggs because the demand and supply chain was affected by the nationwide lockdown.
He explained that the association had to therefore appeal to the government and all stakeholders to ensure the continued operation through an adequate supply of maize and soybeans to the industry at affordable prices. “No economy can operate outside the purchasing power of its citizens,” Pam stated.
Livestock farmers and feed millers also spoke about how Covid-19 impacted negatively on maize supply, which resulted in an increase in prices. For example, a metric ton of maize, which was to N200,000 from N80,000 to N90,000 before the pandemic.
The CEO of Hybrid Feeds Kaduna, Dr Leke Alayande also supported the maize importation saying that the supply side of the value chain had been adversely affected by numerous problems. He said: “The shortfall must be filled from somewhere, which is why we poultry farmers support the idea of short-term importation so that we can block the demand gap. It is important we do some importation. This is not new. If the price of maize is too high it will also affect the cost of allied sectors like eggs and chicken. There is a need for the government to support the value chain. Those who are involved in the value chain require support from the government. Our local farmers can’t meet up with the demand for now. So in the short term, we require importation.”
The Ogun State Chairperson of PAN, Mrs Blessing Alawode, said that the recent importation of 262,000 metric tons of maize was not even enough for a month. Explaining that maize accounted for 55 to 60 per cent of feed costs in the poultry sector, unless Nigeria supports local production of maize with importation, the country might not be able to sustain poultry production given the increase in the cost of feeds.
“And that will lead to scarcity of the end products such as eggs and chicken,” she warned. “The dire consequence will be a food crisis and the social crises the end of which would not be good for us all.”
In his own intervention, the Co-Chair of the Nigeria Agribusiness Group, Mr Emmanuel Ijewere, vehemently opposed the campaign against maize importation. “I believe that the import waivers were well-intentioned, they put Nigeria first, they create jobs for our people, and coming out of Covid-19 makes it acceptable to remove those things that will encourage farm produce,” he said.
A former Vice Chairman of the association, Chief Folorunso Ogunnaike also warned about the imminent food crisis if the government is discouraged from maize importation as a short-term measure.
He said that many farmers would have been out of business if not for the CBN intervention, and therefore local farmers not to entertain any fear as he called on the government to extend the gesture to others in the sector.
“Licence has never been given to all, but the effects will be felt that others. You can’t send farmers out of business by not granting the import waivers. Covid-19 is a disaster for the industry. If importation is not too much it won’t crash the prices as some people fear. So local farmers should not entertain any fear,” he admonished.
Almost 60 per cent of feed inputs are from maize. With many feed millers cutting back significantly on production or stopping production completely for lack of maize, day-old chicks for poultry processors are now selling for N500 per chick.