Rising input cost, forex crisis take eggs off breakfast tables

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Stories by Steve Agbota

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The Federal Government’s plan to make every Nigerian child to eat at least an egg a day, is mow turning into a day dream with the price of the commodity soaring beyond the reach of many families.

Like a fiery tale, many Nigerian families can no longer afford eggs or crates of eggs as the price keeps increasing at an alarming rate despite Nigeria’s rating as the largest producer of eggs in Africa and 19th in the world with annual production of 10.3 billion eggs.

As at 2014, a crate of eggs sold for about N400 to N500, while an egg sold for N20 and two pieces of eggs sold for N50. But between 2015 and 2016, a crate of eggs increased to N650, while an egg was sold for N25.

At a period in 2016, the price moved from N650 to N870 and N900, while the price of an egg rose to between N30 and N35. As at today, a crate of eggs goes for N1,200 and N1,400 while an egg goes for N70 depending on the price.

The increase in price of eggs between these periods was attributed to some factors like high cost of inputs for poultry feed, including maize and soybean, high cost of raw materials, high cost of running the operation and lack of access to foreign exchange to import basic poultry materials for production.

Maize and soybean are basic ingredients of production of livestock and fish feeds. The prices of these produce have also skyrocketed as some West African countries, which had their maize farms destroyed by worm and locust pests, are now mounting pressure on Nigerian maize.

At his second meeting last week with representatives of the poultry industry at the Presidential Villa, Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, promised that the Federal Government was planning urgent relief to poultry farmers in the country to save the industry from collapse, adding that the poultry industry is a local industry that needs to be protected urgently.

He said the industry should be a major plank of the agriculture sector and as such the Buhari administration would ensure that it got help regarding the challenges being faced by operators of the sub-sector.

At the meeting, the President, Poultry Association of Nigeria, Dr. Ayoola Oduntan, said that poultry presently contributes 25 per cent of the agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the Nigerian economy, amounting to N1.6 trillion.

Daily Sun investigation reveals that poultry farmers are currently groaning over their inability to purchase maize in the market, following a biting scarcity. It was reported that those who even planted it last season sold out the produce to neighbouring countries, where they earned more revenue.

Farmers from the North, who have species of maize rich in protein and valuable for production have been reportedly diverting the produce to neighbouring countries where they sold it in foreign currencies because of the depreciating naira.

The development, some industry watchers said, had resulted in more profit for the farmers, who would have earned less for the same risk and distance to bring down their produce to the South.

Speaking with Daily Sun, the Director General of Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Mr. Onallo S. Apka, said that the factors responsible for the increase in price of eggs and other poultry products are the same as those responsible for the increase in prices of other products in Nigeria.

He explained: “The economy, high exchange rate, rising prices of raw materials like maize, soybeans and high prices of inputs into the production of poultry feed; high cost of running the operation itself – we run generator 24/7, you take loan from the bank at 27 per cent interest rate and harsh operating environment – so all these factors are responsible for the high cost of production, invariably translating into the high cost of poultry products.

“With the coming down of exchange rate of the dollar and promise of government to intervene in the sector, we believe in the next few months, the prices of poultry products will also crash because government has promised that it is going to give us incentives to ensure that local poultry industry does not die.”

Meanwhile, the owner of Segtin Farm, Dr. Olusegun Makanjuola, said the inputs for poultry feed like maize and soybeans have become very expensive, lamenting that the situation is really telling on farmers.

He added: “In fact, farmers are not really passing the whole cost of production to the consumer, otherwise, the price would have been higher than what we are facing. It is really a tough time for farmers now because maize that sold around N30 and N40 now goes for over N120 and N135. And then, consider the cost of production, which is very exorbitant and basically, it is the production cost that determines pricing.

“So the increase in the price of inputs and non-availability, including the high costs of raising birds now, have a lot of implications for farmers. If you go to banks, the interest rate at which they loan to farmers is very high. So these are factors that are responsible for the high cost of poultry products.”

He said the Federal Government keeps promising support for farmers without actually doing so even as input cost is not considered.

Makanjuola stated: “We are pleading that government should intensify the production of maize and soybeans. If they should do that, the price will come down and the cost of production will as well come down. Not only that, some of our inputs are imported and we buy forex from the black market, so the cost of those things we import with the black market rate will be high.

So we are pleading with government to also give us some forex relief so that we can access the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) rate for foreign exchange and we are pleading with the Federal Government to give us enabling environment.”

Certification bane of Nigeria’s agro products for export –Lokpobiri

Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Heineken Lokpobiri, has described certification as the major challenge hindering agro products from being exported to international markets.

Lokpobiri, who stated this while addressing newsmen during his visit to Atlantic Shrimpers Limited, a Shrimps Farm in Badagry, last week, said that Nigeria has zero certification, Kenya has over a thousand certifications and South Africa has maybe over 2,000 certifications but Nigeria does not have the global certification standards.

In order to ensure that Nigeria obtains certification, the minister said, “I inaugurated an inter-ministerial committee and I gave them the mandate to go and work on modalities for Nigeria attaining certification so that we can export our agro products. Somebody will take yam from here to Ghana and export and it will be accepted but if you export from Nigeria it is not accepted because of lack of certification and all these things. It is what previous governments should have done, but they were not done owing to lack of interest in agriculture. That was then, but we have decided to do them. I believe in few years, we would attain self-sufficiency in most of our staple foods.

“Government is doing everything possible now to promote agribusiness because there is no more petrodollar. We really need to substitute petrodollar with agribusiness and government is giving priority attention to agriculture. We have the full support of President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that investors have every support needed and whatever incentives they would need to invest massively in agriculture,” he said.

Speaking on the Shrimps Farm, he commended the company for investing massively in agriculture, which, he said, they must have spent over $100 million in the investment and creating a kind of impact the Federal Government desired for Nigeria. He added that the ministry would support the company to ensure that the project succeeds.

However, he said the Federal Government would encourage Nigerians to continue to expand their investment in agriculture because the deficit is huge, stating that government is creating right environment for agro investors to expand their investment.

He said despite that Nigeria does not produce enough, there is more pressure in the market because of the number of people who come from other parts of the world to buy grains from Nigeria.

According to him, it is an opportunity for more people to invest in agriculture, as the Federal Government would look at whatever fiscal policy it can evolve to upscale production.

The Managing Director of Atlantic Shrimpers Limited, Mr. Kamlesh Kabra, said the shrimp farm was established to give them the opportunity to culture shrimps and produce more to satisfy local consumption and export.

Kabra said the company has been a big player in the fishing industry with over 70 trawlers providing jobs for more that 1,000 Nigerians, saying that the shrimp farm was capable of employing over 400 people.

HarvestPlus emerges MacArthur Foundation competition semi-finalist for $100m grant

HarvestPlus achieved a remarkable milestone in pursuit of a grant it is competing with others for. It emerged one of eight semi-finalists named recently by 100&Change, a global competition for a single $100 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The competition seeks bold solutions to critical problems of our time.

HarvestPlus has pioneered a simple but transformative way to increase the nutritional value of staple food crops, such as sweet potatoes, beans, maize and cassava. These improved varieties provide higher amounts of vitamin A, iron, and zinc – the three micro-nutrients identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as most lacking in diets globally.

WHO estimates that malnutrition contributes to 3.1 million deaths of children under-five every year, almost half of all deaths for that age group.

“We know that good nutrition is an essential building block for growth and development,” says HarvestPlus CEO, Bev Postma. “Sadly, many children in rural Africa and other parts of the developing world still suffer from the devastating effects of ‘hidden hunger.’ They may not be visibly hungry but their basic diets lack the essential micronutrients for good health.”

Recent studies have shown that crops pioneered by HarvestPlus and its partners can dramatically improve vitamin A status, reduce diarrheal disease, improve visual function, and reverse iron deficiency in women and children.

“HarvestPlus has already reached 20 million people worldwide and our goal is to reach one billion people by 2030. We can do this only with the help of partners such as the MacArthur Foundation,” says Postma.

With additional resources, HarvestPlus can work with others to scale up its partnerships and empower rural communities across Africa to tackle hidden hunger by growing and consuming more nutritious and sustainable varieties of staple crops.

“The eight ambitious proposals exemplify the passion, range, and creativity of the hundreds of applications,” said MacArthur President, Julia Stasch. “We hope that the competition inspires individuals and organisations to be bold and think big, because solutions are possible.”

MacArthur’s board will select up to five finalists in September. Finalists will present their proposals during a live event on December 11, 2017, before the board names a single recipient to receive $100 million over up to six years.

HarvestPlus will significantly expand an innovation its founder developed via “Biofortification.” This enriches staple foods with vitamin A, iron, zinc and micronutrients through conventional plant breeding to provide a sustainable, farmer-controlled tool to fight malnutrition. Naturally nutrient-rich varieties of corn, cassava, potato, wheat and other staples are enhanced to meet farmer demands for yield and price.

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