Poultry farmers have lamented the shortage of maize and soya beans which is affecting poultry and egg business in Nigeria. Stakeholders suggest the way out, DANIEL ESSIET reports.
Increased maize and soybeans production are among the most urgently needed work in Nigeria, as livestock producers face feed crisis.
Livestock farmers under the auspices of the Poultry Association of Nigerian (PAN) have requested the Federal Government to save the poultry industry from imminent collapse which the industry faces as a result of an unabated rise in the prices of birds feeds and concentrates used to feed chickens.
PAN President, Ezekiel Ibrahim, said producers were still battling shortage of maize to meet feed requirements.
He explained that the feed input such as soya beans were going out of reach of an average poultry farmer with the price of the commodity now increased from N115,000 to N215,000.
During the lockdown, he maintained that scarce supplies and high prices on feed market affected thousands of poultry farmers as the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for them to go to their farms and for millers to distribute enough feed among poultry farms at a guaranteed price.
He noted that the importation of 262,000 metric tonnes of maize saved Nigeria from a food crisis.
He said PAN was in support of the maize import as part of the measures by the Federal Government to bridge the supply gap forced on farmers by several factors, including flooding, which has ravaged several farms and the COVID-19 pandemic.
A transformation from small-scale subsistence farms to mechanised, more commercially viable maize and soybeans farms is essential, say experts.
Currently, mechanisation levels on farms across Nigeria are very low. Without mechanised agriculture, experts say, productivity suffers drastically, lowering farmers’earnings.
This was the view of the Managing Director of Niji Foods, Mr Kolawole Adeniji, a cassava farmer, who went into maize production. He believes maize farming is lucrative. He planted a 100-acre of maize and the outcome was a disaster. He attributed this to irrigation challenges and high costs of production. Successful mechanisation, according to him, is key to tackling maize and soybeans shortage challenges.
While no machine can replace the human touch needed for crops to flourish, Adeniji said mechanisation will help to scale the existing workforce and ease the burden of labour shortages. Otherwise, he continued, maize and soybeans farming would not be profitable.
He said maize and soybeans output could be increased if policy makers and other stakeholders take mechanisation serious. Increases in productivity, according to him, start from planting all the way to storage and processing.
He pointed out that soybeans produced were lost, mostly because of inefficient post-harvest handling and lack of processing equipment.
Mechanisation, he posits, was not only for tilling land, but also for planting, harvesting, processing and storage of produce.
With a tractor, he said, a field that might take 40 days to prepare for planting by hand could be prepared in eight hours.
He said farmers have had to innovate with a singular focus to maximising their return on investment (ROI) potential. Such efforts, replicated across the country, he added, could push the frontiers of agricultural productivity. But governments need to increase investments in the sector.
While the number of Nigerians devoting resources to growing maize is increasing dramatically, Adeniji noted, that it was impossible to make profit cultivating maize and soybeans looking at land, water, fertiliser and soil costs put together, except the process is mechanised.
With the high demand, he noted that a single disaster, disease, pest or economic downturn could cause a major disturbance in the corn system. He noted it was important that the government to help farmers recover their losses during a natural disaster, making them whole again if the government wants to reduce maize and soybeans shortage.
He noted that irrigation is a tool that growers can use to improve yield and quality, especially in dry season. Although some farmers have access to freshwater, Adeniji said the irrigation systems urgently need to be modernised as the availability of water resources varies considerably throughout the country.
Adeniji said it was high time the government retool the corn system. He added that corn is highly productive, flexible and successful.
For experts, profitable soybeans and maize farming becomes a reality for if farmers are ready to take up new technologies to help them to drastically improve yield.
One major challenge on the farm was pests, especially worm and fungal disease (rust) which should be contained by spraying the appropriate pesticides and fungicides.
Against a backdrop of severe climate events, Adeniji said the government intervention in maize and soybeans farming would play an important role in maintaining and improving the country’s output.
A Professor of Plant Pathology in the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Maiduguri, Daniel Gwary noted that buoyant demand is supporting increased prices of soybeans and corn.
Gwary noted that the growing demand for livestock is increasing the need for soybeans to feed the animals.
According to him, the growing poultry industry is increasing the country’s demand for feed. His words: “There’s a competing demand for these commodities for human and livestock consumption. Increased production is the best option to achieve the shortage of supply. Guaranteed market and prices are also key to this success. The government will have a role to play here.”
The Managing Director, Chanan Elo’a Integrated, Mr Udeme Etuk’s concern was that the Federal Government’s desire to ramp up agriculture, including boosting maize and soybeans production, is facing a great threat from widespread rampant attacks by bandits and armed herdsmen, who kill, maim and sack people in farming communities.
He, therefore, suggested that the only solution to the insecurity facing farmers is for the Federal Government to provide protection within maize and soybeans production belt affected by banditry activities. Otherwise, livestock farmers would continue to battle maize and soybeans shortages.
According to him, the plight of maize and soybeans farmers is no less heart-rending as herdsmen have prevented most of them from cultivating their farmlands. In some areas in the country, farmers employed hunters and adopted community policing to watch over their crops.
With vast fertile land, Etuk, a diary expert, believes Nigeria has the capacity to supply maize and soybeans needs of the nation.
He noted: “Farmers need to be encouraged and protected.The bandits and herdsmen are attacking, killing or demanding ransom from farmers. The government should provide good varieties for farmers to plant and give them incentives through the farming season before buying at a marginal profit.”
Soybean farmers such as the Chief Executive, Abuja-based BROTE Urban Vegetable Farm and Processing Limited, Innocent Mokidi’s aim to get ahead in the market with better soybean species that boost profitability for farmers. He farms 100 acres of soybeans and corn in Nassarawa and Plateau states. One thing that has helped him is early planting soybeans.
He applies fungicide in soybeans. He keeps his eyes on stinkbugs.
He advised farmers to manage input costs for soybean seeds and fertiliser.
He sees potential for a tremendous return on investment for soybean farmers domestically and internationally.
Mokidi believes soybeans are a profitable cash crop as well as a high-quality protein source.
He said poverty reduction and the transformation of livelihoods could only be achieved by a concerted effort of stakeholders in the agricultural sector. Through soybeans, he has the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Nigerians.
He believes higher soybean yield increases smallholder farmer productivity and, in turn, raises incomes, reduces malnutrition and promotes economic development.
He said agricultural producers have to fine-tune their irrigated corn and soybean production systems to maximise income. Growers such as Mokidi are becoming interested in producing earlier-maturing soybeans. He suggests that it is important to get soil tested before planting.
Currently, the formal soybean processing sector, analysts said, has an installed capacity exceeding 700,000 tonnes yearly with the main products being soybean oil and the high protein cake used as an ingredient in poultry feed.
Yearly, soybeans production, according to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, is 550,000 tonnes.
The Business Incubation Platform (BIP) of International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has set a new production record for maize in Nigeria. BIP exceeded the previous record through its Youth Out-growers team in an outgrowers programme with Nestlé Nigeria.
Africa harvests 29 million hectares, and as the largest producer, Nigeria produced 1.69 tonnes per hectare in 2019, its highest production rate. However, the outgrowers team has achieved an average of 6 tonnes/hectares, a massive development compared to the achievable value across Nigeria.
Last year, stakeholders raised concern on the foreign exchange restriction imposed on maize importation by the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN).
While farmers welcome the development, assuring that they have the capacity to produce enough to meet local demand, some experts believe the ban might not address the problems of maize production in Nigeria without a comprehensive national corn plan.
The national demand for maize is estimated at 18 million metric tonnes, 60 per cent of which is consumed by the poultry subsector alone while other users utilise the remaining 40 per cent.
PAN said they would need about two million metric tonnes, according to its National President, Ibrahim.
In a letter to the Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN), PAN requested the supply of 1.5 million metric tonnes till last December, which the farmers do not have.
Ibrahim told The Nation, poultry farmers then wrote to the president seeking waiver to imports. Following the move, he said the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Mohammed Sabo Nanono, intervened.
The National President, MAAN, Dr Bello Abubakar Funtua, said they could not meet the demand of poultry farmers because most of the grains had left their hands and are now in the hands of grain merchants, who are creating the artificial scarcity. According to him, most farmers sold their grains to merchants who are currently hoarding the product to get more profit. He said maize is available in the country but in the hands of merchants who hoard the product, a situation he said leads to price increases across the country.
Growing market for soybeans export
Exporters are taking advantage of soybeans markets in Vietnam and the Netherlands, according to the News & Analysis on the Global Animal Feed Industry
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