By Josephine Okojie
Poultry farmers are stuck with large quantities of eggs they cannot sell as the coronavirus lockdown erases the demand for their products from restaurants, eateries, hotels and confectioners. The situation has forced farmers to sell their eggs and birds below their production costs.
“There is currently low demand for eggs and birds due to the lockdown and restriction of movement policy across the country,” said Ezekiel Ibrahim, national president, Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), in a telephone response to questions. Three key economic centres in Nigeria – Lagos, Abuja and Ogun State – have been under lockdown since March 30 as part of measures to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus in the country. Other states of the federation have also implemented one form of restriction or the other to contain the spread. This has taken a toll on economic activities in the country.
“The lockdown has forced businesses such as hotels, restaurants, and eateries that are major buyers of eggs and birds to shut down or operate skeletal services,” he said. Ibrahim said the situation has forced poultry farmers to sell their products below their production costs owing to the short-shelf life of eggs. He urged the government to include eggs in the palliatives being shared to poor and vulnerable Nigerians, emphasising that eggs contain adequate nutrients necessary to boost human body cells and immune system.
Nigeria is the largest producer of eggs in Africa with 10.3 billion eggs annually, data from the Poultry Association of Nigeria show. “I have over 3,000 unsold crates of eggs on my farm because of the lockdown. Nobody is placing orders and I have resorted to personally taking my eggs to buyers to persuade them to buy at lower prices,” Dayo Gawati, chief executive, Fdot Farms, said. “During Muslim Ramadan, we normally experience high demand because people break their fast with noodles and eggs, especially in the north, but this year it is the opposite we are experiencing because of the coronavirus,” he said.
Gawati said that a big size crate of eggs that was sold for N900 at farmgate before the pandemic now sells for N650, while a medium-size crate of eggs sold for N700 before the outbreak now sells N500. He also attributed the low demand to the obstruction in the supply chain, saying that poultry farmers have difficulties in moving eggs and birds produced to major cities where they are needed. Since the coronavirus lockdown started in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun State late March, the farming supply chain has been obstructed as trucks conveying agricultural products cannot easily move from the farms to markets. Agharese Osifo, Edo State-based poultry farmer and consultant in agricultural finance, said that farmers in the state cannot easily move their eggs to markets in Delta and Lagos owing to the lockdown and restriction of movement. Delta and Lagos States account for 90 percent of his monthly sales, he said.
The obstruction in the farming systems has also made it difficult for farmers to access essential farming inputs, leading to a surge in prices. Osifo said prices of key inputs such as feeds and vaccines have increased despite farmers selling their products below their cost price. “A 25kg bag of layers marsh now sells for N3,600 as against N3,200 before COVID-19 outbreak while broiler finisher marsh now sells for N4,200 as against N3,750 pre-COVID-19,” he said.
He urged the Federal Government to release maize, guinea corn and groundnut from its silos strategic grains reserve to the poultry industry in the country. He further pleaded with the government to grant Value Added Tax (VAT) exemption for the poultry industry.
Culled from BusinessDay newspaper a leading business publication where Okojie reports