Nigeria relies heavily on dairy imports to bridge the gap between local milk production and total milk consumption estimated to be 1.3 million tonnes with the government spending an estimated $1.3billion annually on importation of dairy products into the country.
According to National Agricultural Sample Survey, 2011, Nigeria as a country, is endowed with an estimated cattle population of 19.5 million, in addition to other livestock, making the country the highest livestock producer in the West African sub-region.
During the post-colonial period in Nigeria, both Federal Government and Regional Governments as part of their strategies to encourage the dairy industry development, established several dairy-processing plants across the country and by 1975 after successfully upgrading the first herd of indigenous cattle with imported Bos taurus specie, 69 cows were able to produce about 200, 000 litres of milk annually.
Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Chairman of Dangote group, made an assertion that 98 per cent of all dairy products consumed in the country are imported. He disclosed this when students of the Executive MBA class of Lagos Business School visited the Dangote Petrochemical Refinery in October of 2016.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh while addressing an audience at the retreat on livestock and dairy development in Nigeria, in June 2016, called for the abandonment of the nomadic way of raising cattle in Nigeria, adding that steps were being taken to ensure quality and quantity of milk and beef.
According to the minister, the steps taken were establishment of ranches to be planted with imported high-quality improved tropical grass varieties, cattle improvement programme via artificial insemination, establishment of clusters of dairy farms to be equipped with collection facilities and capacity building for dairy farmers.
These assertions were, however, yet to be implemented.
Again, Ogbeh at a roundtable conference in Abuja, themed ‘Milky Way to Development’ said, Nigeria’s national dairy output per annum is 700, 000MT while the national demand is 1, 300MT annually, affirming that Nigeria is partnering with major national and international stakeholders in the sector to bridge the deficit thereby considerably reducing importation of milk by 2019.
But the President of the Commercial Dairy Ranchers Association of Nigeria (CODA RAN), an umbrella body for commercial dairy farmers in the country, Mal Muhammadu D. Abubakar said, the major challenges of keeping up with dairy production in Nigeria are lack of adequate energy, lack of cold chain infrastructure and lack of stocks with high milk yield.
In addition, Abubakar lamented that because sources of milk are scattered among the pastoralists, it is a great challenge bringing the milk together and organising them into an entity. He noted that lack of good rural/ feeder roads makes it difficult to connect to either pastoralists or other commercial farmers in the hinterlands.
Abubakar, who is also the MD/ CEO of L & Z Integrated Farms Limited, a dairy farm engaged in the entire value chain of dairy from production, processing to marketing outlined that some countries provided a level playing ground to protect their local dairy farmers by introducing higher tariffs on imported dairy products into such countries, thereby allowing the local products to compete favourably with such imported products.
Meanwhile in Nigeria, President of CODA RAN, decried that tariff on dairy products importation is about 10 per cent and plans are underway to cut it to five per cent while other countries’ tariff is as high as 60 per cent.
He explained that the European dairy farmers especially receive various types of support from their governments like subsidy for the cows, export grants and also support for acreage kept for pasture production for the animals.
“Collectively, these supports makes their milk to be very cheap and when they import to Nigeria where all these are non-existent, it makes our own dairy to be excessively expensive. So even in our clime we can’t compete with these farmers that are abroad,” he lamented.
He pointed out that Nigeria has to exercise caution in signing of treaties with international communities and also involve the necessary stakeholders before going into such agreements.
“What do we export to those countries. So how will this trade liberalisation benefit us? But they import dairy products worth $1.3billion into our country annually.”
“A case that comes to my mind easily is the European Partnership Agreement (EPA) that is currently being circulated and considered for signing which will at the end of the day make our market easily penetrable as against we trying to get into their market,” he decried.
He, therefore, advised the government to engage the private sector, and turnaround it policy in order to make milk profitable in Nigeria, adding that once it is profitable, Nigerians have the capacity to mop up excess milk.
Similarly, Mr Ilan Bones, Manager of Milky-way Farm in Bokkos, Plateau State, affirmed that most dairy farms in Nigeria use a percentage of imported powdered milk to make dairy products because of the poor quality of fresh milk they get from herdsmen.
He asserted that shortage of dairy farms in Nigeria and seasonality of fresh milk, are the major limiting factors to Nigeria’s dairy industry development.
In addition, Bones noted that using hands by herdsmen to milk cows significantly affects the quality of the milk, stating further that the time it takes to deliver the milk also affects its quality which becomes a problem for milk processors.
Mr Bones advised government to organise herdsmen into small farms and ensure milk collection is done automatically and most importantly hygienically, and also provide cooling devices to enable smooth supply of dairy factories with quality milk.
In another vein, Mr Ishaya U. Gadzama, who is a breeder/ nutritionist for the Dairy Research Programme of National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI), Shika, Zaria confirmed that the institute’s ‘Friesian Bunajis’ can produce up to 10litres of milk per day.
NAPRI is conferred with the mandate for genetic and reproductive improvements of livestock species, including cattle, sheep and goats, among others.
Gadzama said this breeds of cow are artificially inseminated at nearly two years of age and calves give birth at three years of age depending on their body weight.