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Nigerian poultry farmers have complained of recording huge losses due to the restriction of movement by the federal and state governments to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The farmers, who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES within the week, said the lockdown and the decline in the purchasing power of most Nigerians have eroded the sale of poultry products such as eggs and broilers.

Although the government later exempted farmers and marketers of food products from the restriction of movement, poultry farmers said this has not protected their business from the general effects of the lockdown.

Lockdown

President Muhammadu Buhari on March 29 declared a total lockdown on the Federal Capital Territory-FCT, Lagos and Ogun states as government rallied to check the spread of the deadly virus in Nigeria. However, the government of Ogun State obtained permission to delay the take of of the measure by a week until April 3 to enable the government and residents prepare for life under lockdown.

Commercial establishments such as food processing, distribution and retail companies, petroleum distribution and retail entities, power generation, transmission and distribution companies and private security companies were exempted from the lockdown, as were workers rendering essential services.

Apart from the presidential directive on the two states and Abuja, many other state governments also imposed lockdown in their states to check the spread of the virus.

On April 12, the president addressed the nation again on the same issue and announced the extension of the lockdown by two weeks.

Some Nigerians, including state governors, later called for a partial lifting of the lockdown, with the Nigerian Governors Forum advising intra-state movement be allowed, while interstate trips should remain restricted.

At the end of the extension of the lockdown, the president on April 27 addressed the nation again and announced a relaxation of the lockdown from May 4 but declared a nationwide curfew between 8.p.m and 6.a.m from that date. He also announced a nationwide ban on interstate travel.

Low production, poor demand and spoilage of products

Idris Oladejo, who runs a poultry farm in Abuja, said fallen production and mass spoilage of products as a result of poor sales are the major problems he is facing under the lockdown.

Mr Oladejo said the restriction of movement within communities and the closure of schools have drastically slowed down his business.

He said he used to sell over 500 crates of eggs daily before the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic. “Now, the business has turned upside down,” Mr Oladejo said.

“Before now, a crate of eggs sold at N750-N800, but now, the few people who managed to get access to the farm want us to sell lower ( N650-N700). If we sell at a very low price, we would not be able to buy feed and pay salaries.

“I lost over 150 crate of eggs last week,” he continued. “A poultry farmer makes more sales when schools are in session. Then, we sell a crate of eggs at the rate of N800 – N900.”

The Kaduna State Government had announced a lockdown a week before the president proclaimed it on the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states. Poultry farmers in the state said their experience has been harrowing throughout the period.

Timothy Okunade, the president of the Kaduna State chapter of Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) spoke with PREMIUM TIMES early this week. He expressed worry over the continuous decline of sales and the spoilage of eggs. He said the demand of broilers has fallen sharply “but demand for eggs is even worse.”

He said, “farmers can’t go out to sell and if they go out to sell, there are no buyers.

“We are stuck with so many products in the farm. This has forced us to bring down prices to ridiculous levels. Eggs are perishable, so you can’t hold on to them for long. Even worse in Kaduna, there is no hope in sight regarding when the lockdown will be over,” Mr Okunade said.

The PAN president said he had written to the state government through the Ministry of Agriculture as well as spoken to some members of the state’s COVID-19 committee to add eggs to the palliative packages being distributed, so as to help mop up the unsold stocks.

Jimmy John-Mark is a poultry farmer and veterinary doctor in Kaduna. He said the lockdown has affected the movement of feed and other necessities to his farm, which has led to a fall in his production of eggs per day.

He said the restriction of movement also does not allow customers to access his farm. “Even when we deliver to them, they are not allowed to open shops for sales as usual, except on specific days as instructed by the government,” he said.

Yohana Moses, the spokesperson of the Poultry Association of Nigeria, Nasarawa State chapter, also lamented the plight of the business in the state as a result of the coronavirus-induced lockdown.

He said the lockdown has deprived poultry farmers of the patronage of petty traders and others, forcing many of the farmers to cut the production of eggs by 50 per cent.

“We are trying to see how to sustain our farms. We have cut production by 50 per cent and have resorted to delivering eggs to customers,” he said.

Way forward

Yusuf Ogunbiyi, Product Development Analyst at AFEX, said the widening nature of the coronavirus pandemic poses great challenges to food production across Nigeria.

He called for proactive approaches to reduce the risks of a food crisis in the near future, adding that the government should provide the agricultural sector with necessary inputs.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) had warned that to mitigate the impact of coronavirus pandemic, countries must meet the immediate food needs of their vulnerable populations, boost their social protection programmes, keep the food supply chain flowing and gain efficiencies to reduce costs related to trade.

FAO said in order to keep the food supply chains afloat and support smallholder farmers, governments should “facilitate movement of agricultural products; buy surplus fresh produce to supply those in need; and connect farmers to markets to avoid food losses.”

It also urged them to “match agricultural job opportunities to unemployed workers; provide financial support to small and medium-sized enterprises; and ensure access to agricultural inputs and services for next season.”

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