• 2,450 Workers Rendered Jobless
• PFAN Seeks Lifeline For Farmers
As the Avian Swine Fever (ASF) continues to ravage Pig farms across the Southwest States, the Pig Farmers Association of Nigeria (PFAN), Lagos State Chapter, has appealed to government and other relevant authorities to bail out farmers from this current predicament.
The hardest hit by the pandemic, based on The Guardian check is the Lagos State Piggery Estate, Oke Aro, Ogun State, adjudged the largest pig estate in West Africa.
It was also learnt that farms in Ijebu area of Ogun State are also badly hit, leaving the farmers to count losses running into several millions of naira.
A visit to the old and new sites of the Oke-Aro farm estate, during the week revealed the grave impact of the ASF and level of devastation on the farm, as the ranch can currently boast of having only two per cent of the total capacity of animals left.
Most of the pens that were hitherto filled to capacity are currently empty. At least, The Guardian counted four different shallow graves where infected pigs were buried, a development that has suddenly pushed the farmers into serious debts.
The Guardian learnt that at least 10 farmers have died due to shock and depression, considering the huge debt they have incurred as a result of the disease.
State Chairman of PFAN, Mr. Olakunle Ojo, who regretted the impact of the disease on farms in the state, said the farmers badly affected by the development are those who have just come into the business, but lost almost everything.
He appealed government; well-meaning Nigerians, philanthropists and corporate bodies to come to the aid of the farmers, as the majority of the farmers have lost hope of survival.
President of the Piggery Estate, Old Site, Pastor Adewale Kayode Oluwalana revealed that the Oke-Aro farm alone has lost about N12b worth of animals. “We have lost 10 of our members in the process because some of them took loans from the bank and couldn’t pay back. They died as a result of shock.”
Oluwalana attributed the high mortality to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, noting that immediately the disease was detected majority of the animals would have been sold out, but the lockdown prevented buyers who come as far as neighbouring countries to access the farm.
“The major problem we had this time around was the lockdown. The disease first occurred in 1998, killing all the animals because of inexperience of farmers to manage it. In 2005, it came again, though it killed the animals but not as high as what was experienced in 1998. Due to the skills acquired by the farmers only 60 per cent of the animals were killed. In 2010, the experience of the farmers had increased and the disease only killed 10 per cent.
“This one shouldn’t have affected us much, if not for the lockdown, it wouldn’t have reached this magnitude because buyers from Niger and Benin Republics couldn’t come to the farm. Due to the stalemate, the bad animals affected the good ones at a geometrical rate and before we know it, between March and April, we have recorded 85 per cent losses.”
While appreciating government gestures so far, he said the farmers are ready to come back to business but the means is not there. “That is why we are crying to government to assist us. Imagine the high number of people that have been rendered jobless, if they don’t get anything to do soonest they’ll become hooligans in order to survive.
“We want government to give us grant. The grant should be directed to the Lagos State Piggery Estate, Oke Aro; we need an incinerator to turn our wastes to organic fertiliser; we need a cold room and generator to power it; and restocking of the animals for us to start all over again.”
One of the farm supervisors, Mrs. Bolaji Ayeni said due to the impact of the disease, 2,450 workers in the farm have been rendered jobless, with only 50 people hanging around for survival.
She said: “The 50 remaining workers are just coming in order to survive. We need help from government to come back to business. We appreciate the state government for the palliative of maize and sorghum gifted us, likewise the fumigation of the entire farm. Currently, the farmers have lost hope. Fumigation without animal is not enough; they should give us grant. The grant should be given directly to the farmers, no intermediary.
“Some of our people have died because the disease came at a time of harvest. Another challenge we are facing is the fact that since the disease has affected almost all the states in Southwest, where are we going to get animals to start again?”