JANET OGUNDEPO writes on the frustration of poultry farmers amid scarcity of soybeans and maize
•Expect big rise in price of chickens in December – Poultry Association of Nigeria
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.
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.”
Also, Atanda recalled that he started poultry farming at a spot on his compound in 2019 with about 100 broilers. He disclosed that the success rate encouraged him to expand his farm in 2020.
However, towards the end of 2020, Atanda said things started changing as prices of feeds experienced a gradual increase and sales dropped. He stated that he hoped things would get better during the rainy season, noting that the situation was still “not favourable” as he had to “push a little bit and look for more money” to sustain the business.
Though it could be economical for an individual to source and process poultry feeds, Atanda stated that it was stressful yet he decided to feed his layers with feeds he produced himself.
On the price differences and the current situation, Atanda said, “For example, the 25kg of finisher we bought at N3000 plus early in the year now costs over N4,500. With the price increases, the thought of whether we would continue with the business began to creep in. Despite the increase in the prices of feed, sales which would have catered for other expenses were not forthcoming. We sell the eggs at ridiculous prices so we can have some money to keep the poultry running. Sometimes, we sell on credit and at times, we don’t get our money back. When we don’t make sales, we have to add more money so we can buy more feeds. At times, we sell some of them (birds) because of the price increase in feed.”
He added that lack of a proper storage system for maize to ensure dry maize was accessible all-year-round was another factor affecting the business.
“Birds don’t fast nor understand whether there is feed scarcity or not,” said Mr Taiwo Tewogbola who has been a poultry farmer for 12 years.
Tewogbola also decried scarcity of maize and soybeans and increase in the prices of processed feeds.
As other poultry farmers stated, farmers’ inability to go to farms due to insecurity caused the situation in the sector.
He added that despite the price increase, the quality of feeds had been compromised thus causing a decrease in production.
He also stated that efforts put into individual processing of feeds was stressful and reduced farmers’ productivity.
Tewogbola stated, “Despite that, we are still in the season of maize, usually, we do not use maize that has moisture but because of the scarcity, we have to use maize that has moisture because it’s what is available. This has also reduced production and if it is not well managed, it can cause a disease outbreak on the farm.
“The market is unpredictable. When I started poultry about 12 years ago, a bag of feed was over N1, 000 but now it is about N6, 000. It is difficult to have a projection of how things will be.”
As a manager of a large poultry farm, Tewogbola said he wouldn’t consider quitting and had to seek funds to buy feed for his birds.
He stated that the decision made him come up with a strategy of “buying feeds in advance so I do not run from pillar to post.”
He added that access to the loans the government promised poultry farmers was herculean, adding that for the sake of his farm he resorted to obtaining loans from commercial banks whose “interest rate did not commiserate with the profits from the farm.”
Tewogbola also faulted the ban on food importation.
He said, “The government policy is also affecting us. We only have limited maize in the country yet the border is closed and maize cannot be imported. When you take something from someone, you should make an alternative for the person.”
In the same vein, another poultry farmer, Abayomi Salam, runs a six circle a year poultry farm in Osun State. In the system, day-old birds are bred for six weeks and sold off while the pen is allowed to rest for two weeks. But this year, he said he could only run three circles due to the increase in the price of feeds.
He explained that despite the increase he continued rearing the birds with the hope that things would change but they never did.
He noted that the profits from the previous productions were spent on a new production.
Salam said, “What I have been able to do is to find a way to manage. It would have been a better solution if the price of feed was commensurate with the price we sell birds at maturity.”
“Last December, we sold birds at N850 per kg and we bought a bag of feed at between N4, 500 and N5, 000. Right now, we buy the same quantity of feed at N8, 000 and we now sell birds for N870 per kg, which is an addition of N20 in the selling price. Meanwhile, there is between N2000 and N2, 500 increases on every bag of feed the birds take. The situation has caused many farmers to go out of business and some have shrunk their farms’ capacities. Some of us have found ways to manage it by cutting costs. But this has not been as effective as having the prices stabilised; that would be the adequate thing to do.”
He also stated that the price increases and scarcity of the crops were caused by insecurity in the country as farmers could no longer engage in farming activities.
He noted that the Federal Governments’ concession to four poultry feed processing companies had not yielded the expected results, stating that the situation could lead to a food crisis if not adequately addressed.
Salam further said Nigerians were in for a shock because there would be a huge scarcity of eggs and birds (chicken) during the festive season.
He added, “Though prices usually go up during the festive season. But this year, there would be price increase and scarcity such that if one has the money to buy they might not get the commodity.”
Another farmer who has been in the poultry business for about six years, Tunde Ogundare, recalled that a bag of grower feed for broilers sold for N3,500 while starter feed was N3,700 when he started the business.
With about a 100 per cent increase in the price of poultry feeds, Ogundare stated “he nearly quit poultry business” as he was currently running at a loss.
On the present prices of eggs, he noted that crates of unsorted eggs vary between N1, 450 and N1, 600, stating that the retailers make more profit than the farmers.
According to him, the prices of eggs are likely to increase more before the end of the year. Ogundare added, “If I am to realise some profit, I would have to sell a mature broiler for N10, 000 whereas I sold it for N7, 000 last year. I wonder who would buy a chicken for N10,000?”
Threat to December festivity
Some of the poultry farmers said they now rear layers instead of broilers because of the challenges currently facing the industry. They explained that the prices of broiler feeds were increasing weekly, adding that by switching over to rearing of layers, the proceeds from the egg production would provide funds to buy feeds and further cushion the effect of the high prices.
Ojo said, “The broiler chicken business for those who rear chickens for the festive season has also been affected. By December, the prices of chicken will go up because the prices of feed have gone up. The feed for broilers is now expensive.”
In his comment, the Director-General, Poultry Association of Nigeria, Onallo Akpa, also noted that with the situation in the nation’s chicken meat sector, chickens would be available in December but expensive.
He said, “They (consumers) would buy chickens but it would be expensive based on the cost of production.”
On his part, a nutritionist, Mr James Oloyede, said that the situation would affect children’s nutrition.
Oloyede added that hunger and malnutrition loomed if the situation was not handled well.
He said, “When the consuming power of people is reduced due to price increase, there is insufficient intake, this then leads to hunger because people will not be able to eat enough and will affect the consumption of a healthy diet. This situation would affect children more because they are growing and the effects are seen.
“Malnutrition however causes some long-lasting effects that in most cases are irreversible at the end of the day. If it prolongs more than necessary, such children could go into a state of scurvy, where they’re shorter than their age, have severe malnutrition where they are thin for their height and lose weight. This further affects their cognition, mental capacity and capability. If they are of the school-age, they would not be able to concentrate on their studies and this would lead to more dropout rate in the long run and the society loses.”
Oloyede also advised parents to seek other protein giving foods to supplement their children’s meals.
He said, “It is not the only egg that supplies protein for a child, there are other foods, though they may not provide the same quantity of protein as an egg. The fundamental need of the body is energy. Parents need to understand how to combine available plant-based protein such as beans, melon, and groundnuts for a child to eat a healthy, nutritious meal. If a child takes two or three eggs in a week and because the price increase has reduced it to one, parents can complement it with other plant-based protein for the child. We need to think out of the box of what we can do when the price of a particular commodity is increased beyond our reach. We need to look for substitutes.”
Another nutritionist, Olushola Malomo, also affirmed that the price increase would make families reduce the consumption of protein-giving poultry products. He however warned that these would lead to hidden hunger and malnutrition, especially in children.
Malomo said, “Egg is one of the cheap sources of protein in terms of availability, quantity and quality. However, the recent increase in price means that a family where each member consumes an egg a day, would have a drop in the number of eggs or have to skip egg on a particular day. This led to a reduction in protein intake and in such an instance, the food will no longer be balanced and malnutrition can set in. It may start with hidden hunger, that is, micronutrient deficiency in children.
“With time, malnutrition will set in not because eggs are the only source of protein but by and large other commodities will go up as well. In some remote areas where eggs are the principal source of protein, there may be incidence of anaemia and other diseases.”
He noted that with the prevailing circumstance, it was vital to “take advantage of other cheaper sources of protein to mitigate the effects of the high price of the products. One of the ways is to explore other edible sources of protein such as milk, fish and others.”
Feed producers, govt, others speak on issue
Commenting on the development in the nation’s chicken meat industry, the Technical Sales Manager, Hybrid Feeds, Mr Olawale Olayinka, said price hike in maize, soybeans and other micronutrients were responsible for the increase in feeds. He added that the current prices of feeds were also caused by the forex crisis.
He said, “It is difficult for people to go to the farm because of the insecurity situation in the country, especially the North. Also, other micronutrients that are added to the feeds are imported so the dollar rate also contributes to the price.”
He further stated that though the prices of maize and soybeans might reduce at some point, the current increase in the price of diesel and other production costs were also liable.
Olayinka said, “For now, an end in sight is not feasible because when the price of one commodity reduces, the price of other commodities might not. For instance, the price of diesel is also increasing which is also a major factor in production. If the price of maize reduces, the price of diesel and haulage goes up so there won’t be a positive effect on the price of feed.”
For the Maize Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria, the COVID-19 lockdown, drought, flooding and insecurity led to the scarcity and increase in the prices of maize.
The association’s Head of Operations and Distributions, Mr Peter Onah, stated that one of their farms in Borno State, having over 1,702 hectares of ready-to-be harvested maize, was attacked by some members of the Boko Haram insurgents.
He said, “We could not pick the grains on that farm and lost two farmers in the process. That affected us a lot. Out of the 62,312 farmers we work with, we lost about 23,826 members to insecurity including natural disasters. This and other things I mentioned have affected us as an association.”
He further stated that they had explained the situation to the poultry farmers association and assured them of a direct supply of maize to feed producers.
Onah also pleaded with the government “to give approvals on time to cover up for the losses of the year” and to ensure a boost in production for the coming year.
Also, Akpa noted that though it was harvest season for maize and soybeans, the grains were scarce and their prices high. He added that a metric ton of maize sold for between N160, 000 and N170,000.
Akpa said, “The same thing goes for soybeans, some people are harvesting soybeans though the moisture content is still high. There is no hope in sight that the harvest will meet the target of the over one million metric tonnes per annum requirement of the poultry industry because the average production per year, based on the last two years, has not risen to one million metric tons.
“Prices are determined by supply and demand. If the supply is less than demand, that means there is scarcity, even at harvest period, the hope of a price reduction is minimal. The worst we have seen is if in October and November, the prices of commodities that are supposed to be at the lowest ebb still skyrocket, it shows we are in a mess.”
He stated that to adjust to the situation, farmers had begun to blend newly harvested maize and soybeans with moisture to make poultry feeds.
Akpa called the attention of the Federal Government and the public to the current situation, stating that the “nutrition and food security of families, especially those with a low purchasing power would be largely affected.’’
He said, “With the low-purchasing power of the people, everyone is trying to eke out a living by eating what can sustain them regardless of whether it has adequate protein. Not having adequate protein dwindles one’s health and makes one prone to diseases and sicknesses. This can further lead to hunger, malnutrition and mortality in society.”
To end the problems, Akpa said, “To me, we are in a quagmire, it comes like this once in a lifetime of a nation but then, where are we? We are in talks with the government. It is left for the government to send people to see things because the food security of the nation is paramount. We do not need to have a food crisis that will stare at us and complicate our situations.
“Most of the poultry farms are shutting down. Many people are unable to feed their birds. We are approaching the end of the year and farms are still closing and prices are still increasing, what it means is that by the first quarter of next year, we don’t know where we might be.”
He added that if the government decided to import maize, how would it sustain such an initiative amid its forex crisis and get maize from countries such as the United States of America.
On the claims by some farmers of inability to access loans of the Anchor Borrowers’ programme established by the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria, Akpa said that the programme was ongoing and still being funded by the CBN. He, however, noted that insecurity had hindered farmers from going to their farms thereby hindering the “double multiplier effects of the programme.’’
He stated, “We are in a cycle of pressure to feed the birds on the farm and have no choice but to sell the eggs at inappropriate prices considering the cost of production. I hope this pressure does not make farmers continue to run away from poultry because if that happens, people in some parts of the world would rejoice and we become a dumping ground for chickens.”
Reacting, Director of Information, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Theodore Ogaziechi, speaking through the Deputy Director of Information in the ministry, Mrs Eno Olotu, urged poultry farmers to make use of other energy and protein-giving grains to mitigate the effects of the shortage of soybeans and maize.
Ogaziechi said, “The Federal Government through the ministry has supported the Maize Association of Nigeria with improved seeds to grow more maize and soybeans that will sustain the poultry industry. Government has encouraged poultry feed millers to adopt and implement the use of alternative feed ingredients such as the inclusion of five per cent of cassava chips and brewers dry grains in the formation of poultry feeds to supplement the energy content.”
He added that the ministry recently sent 5000 tonnes of maize to the Poultry Association of Nigeria, disclosing that the ministry earlier sent 0,000 tonnes of the crop to the association to cushion the effect of high prices of maize in the open market.
Ogaziechi noted, “The ministry is currently working with the National Biotechnology Agency and the National Grains Research Institute, Badeggi to develop an herbicide tolerant variety to reduce the soybean weed infestation which is a major challenge of the crop. Increase public and private sector investment in animal feed research, production equipment, storage, transport infrastructure to mitigate the present crisis in the animal feed sub-sector.”
Noting that the activities of smugglers contributed to the scarcity of the farm produce, Ogaziechi encouraged farmers to “take advantage of the dry season farming to boost production to meet demands.”
He further urged the PAN to collaborate with the Maize Association of Nigeria “to form an Outgrowers scheme to meet up with their demands.”
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