NIGERIA – PROBLEMS IN POULTRY INDUSTRY.
The government-owned Nigerian Agricultural Cooperative and Rural Development Bank (NACRDB) across the country has not done better, according to an article in All Africa. The only exceptions to these rules are the rich local and multinational farms, which are connected to bank CEOs and officials at the corridor of power.
This was the lot of poultry farmers in Nigeria, before the current global economic crisis, that has led to the loss of 368 billion naira of bank loans invested in stocks. In the coming period, the industry will face serious crisis because it will be much easier for the proverbial camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for poor farmers obtaining loans from banks. This is a sad commentary on government so-called small- and medium-scale entrepreneurship drive.
Infectious diseases are another major challenge to the industry, because of the economic importance of disease-causing organisms like bacteria, virus, fungi and protozoa, which birds are susceptible to, bringing about devastating effects to both the flocks and the farmers. For instance, the outbreak of avian influenza, otherwise known as bird flu, in 2005/2006, led to the death of over 1.5 million birds across the country. It will be recalled that a large number of poor farmers lost their means of livelihood when their flocks were destroyed by government without compensation, whilst the rich farms (Obasanjo’s, Sambawa, among others) made fortune from both government and foreign donor agencies, alleges All Africa.
Poultry farmers nationwide also suffered from other infections, like Newcastle disease, avian coryza, infectious bursa disease, fowl cholera, fowl typhoid amongst others, which are equally deadly to the birds. In fact, the author of the article says he lost over 2,000 birds to Newcastle disease in December 2008, which he is yet to recover from. The government in the past used to take measures to prevent and control livestock diseases, through the establishment of research institutes across the country, like the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), Vom, Plateau State, for the production of vaccines. But due to under funding of agriculture sector by successive governments, the institute could barely sustain itself let alone being able to produce enough vaccines to meet the growing needs of poultry farmers. The adverse effect of this is manifested in the growing rate of vaccine importations by rich farmers from other countries. The poor farmers patronize the importers, whose vaccines’ shelf life and cold chain has been altered, due to long storage, hence, the losses resulting from vaccination failures and associated diseases. This explains the losses suffered by this writer and many others poultry farmers across Nigeria.
High cost of feed ingredients is another death knell of the industry. The perennial scarcity occasioned by high cost of feed materials especially maize has been a recurring decimal in the poultry industry in Nigeria. This has resulted in large numbers of farmers closing shop because of their inability to feed birds. In 2008, due to the global food crisis, the price of maize and other materials like soybeans soared beyond the reach of poor farmers, leading to farm closure and the resultant job losses. The public outcry generated by these losses compelled the federal government through its Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to release maize from the national strategic grains reserves. But due to its commitment to big profiteers, a large quantity of the maize went to big farmers, while members of the executive of Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) also benefited. Those poor poultry farmers who could not buy the product from PAN executives at the exorbitant price have to simply close down their farms. The remaining few farmers who still struggle to survive all these aforementioned onslaughts are again constrained by marketing, leading to the perennial eggs glut suffered by farmers across the country.
Flowing from the foregoing analysis, it is obvious that the poultry sub-sector of the economy is in dire need of attention. This need has been heightened by the present global financial crisis and economic recession. But to expect this government to revive the poultry industry in particular or the Nigerian economy in general on permanent basis in the face of plummeting international crude oil price, will be wishful thinking. This is because at the best of times when government at all levels (federal, state and local) were literally swimming in petro-dollars wealth, nothing concrete was done by the government to improve the economic well-being of the suffering majority, nor was an attempt made to diversify the economy which is solely based on exportation of crude oil. Rather, the huge sums of money realised were either diverted through over-bloated contracts, or looted outright by government officers.
The Minister of Finance, Dr Mansur Muhtar, at the inauguration of the new National Economic Management Team (NEMT) in Abuja, said: " the global financial crisis and economic downturn have impacted negatively on the environment in Nigeria. While we were able to weather the first round effects of the global crisis, subsequent deterioration in the global economic and financial environment has exposed our country to considerable shocks. We need to move speedily to reposition our economy to adequately respond to the accompanying global slowdown in a more comprehensive and holistic fashion. The Nigerian economy is at a critical junction and our success in effectively responding to the current global economic crisis would be vital to laying the foundation for a more diversified and resilient economy" (Vanguard, February 3, 2009). The implications of this verbose economic grandstanding by the minister is that, hard times await the already pulverised poverty-stricken Nigerians, because there is going to be increased cutback on social services by the government, if nothing is done by the working people including farmers to defend themselves. So they must brace up for the challenges.
In the final analysis, the All Africa article says that the government, like its counterparts in advanced capitalist economies, cannot resolve the present global economic recession on permanent basis, so long as the reign of capital remains supreme. Capitalism, the current world economic ideology, is a vicious circle replete with intermittent global economic crisis, global food crisis, global warming, environmental degradation, wars, unemployment, illiteracy, natural disasters, corruption, homelessness, and other social, political and economic ills. Therefore, there is need to break completely with this unjust system. Towards this end, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), and other civil society organisations, must commence mass mobilisation of workers, farmers, students, market men and women for a day of action to protest the poor living conditions of Nigerians and demand a break with the present economic system. Subsequently, this should evolve into forming a working class political party, which will make nationalisation of the major sectors of the economy, including the poultry industry, its cardinal programme, so as to plan the economy, through democratic control and management by workers, with a view to meeting the needs of all, against the profit motive of few rapacious individuals.