Poultry Farmers: Olademiji Akinlolu runs a flourishing poultry farm. He is a 25-year old farmer based in Iseyin, Oyo State. Akinlolu started his poultry business three years ago while still an undergraduate. However, his constant efforts to sell his eggs often hit a brick wall, and this is becoming a yearly occurrence.
The reason for this is not farfetched. Egg glut is hitting the Nigerian market. It occurs between February and May, owing to increased production and low consumption of eggs within that period. This is when the poultry farmer makes losses and is desperate to find an escape route.
“After my tertiary education, I could not secure employment, so I decided to go into poultry farming because it is profitable. But since starting it, I have realised that raising layers for egg production has not been quite profitable owing to the yearly egg glut farmers’ experience,” Akinlolu said.
“Between February and May each year, there is always low egg consumption because the weather is hotter. So people consume less of it. Eggs are mostly consumed during the raining season.”
“I started rearing layers for egg production but had to switch over to broiler production because the yearly egg glut was hitting hard on my profit margins,” he added.
Nigeria is the largest producer of eggs in Africa with 10.3 billion eggs produced annually, data from the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) shows, but the nation is yet to fully take advantage of this situation by processing eggs into powdery forms.
“Each year, millions of tonnes of eggs are harvested in Nigeria but a good number of them go down the drains as wastages, due to the short shelf life and low demand for the product at a particular period farmers usually experience glut,” Francis Toromade, former group head, policy and strategy at Amo Group Farms, said.
“In Nigeria, there is low usage of eggs because the food and beverages industry in the country uses egg powder that is not being produced in the country, but imported,” Toromade said.
Nigeria’s inability to process its excess eggs into powder despite this glut is costing the country $1billion every year, Nigeria’s Poultry Association says.
This increases the pressure on the country’s foreign exchange reserves, money that could have been saved if the country processes its fresh eggs into powder.
“I suffered N500, 000 loss from last year’s egg glut,” Onyekachi Eze, a poultry farmer in Onitsha, Anambra State, said.
“Last year, the challenge for us farmers was double, as prices of feeds doubled and egg sales declined,” Eze said.
Egg powder is used in production of oil-based emulsions. It is also used in preparation of foods such as ice-cream, bread, cakes, biscuits, noodles, and doughnuts. It can likewise be rehydrated to make dishes such as scrambled eggs and omelettes.
“The country has been losing a lot of money due to our inability to process eggs into powder. It has really been a tough year for poultry farmers, yet they still have to struggle with the annual egg glut,” said Kabiru Ibrahim, former president, Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), in a telephone conversation with BusinessDay.
“We need to start processing eggs into powder to help address the issue of egg glut in the country and also increase the shelf life of our eggs,” Ibrahim said.
Farmers lose a lot of their profits during the period of egg glut.
“There is low purchasing power for eggs in the country, especially in the Northern region, due to the economic downturn in the country. Nigerians are not consuming eggs like before and it has continued to create a glut in the market,” Dayo Gawati, managing director and chief executive officer, Fdot Farms in Ilorin, Kwara State said.
“The issue is difficult for us farmers because there is only one company in the country, as we speak, that processes fresh eggs into powder. Most of the industries import processed egg powder they use in production,” Gawati said.
Raw eggs are said to last about four weeks, while powdered eggs can last up to a year. The yoke, the whole eggs and the albumen can be processed into powder.
Eggs contain protein and are consumed in homes across the country, especially by the burgeoning middle-class. Eggs likewise serve as a cheap source of protein for young Nigerians between the ages of five and 40, which constitute over 60 percent of the country’s 198 million population.
High input cost, smuggling complicate matters
The high cost of key inputs such as poultry feeds and vaccines across the country has continued to frustrate farmers’, a development experts say may threaten the country’s livestock production and the diversification drive of the government.
The Nigerian poultry industry suffered a N200 million loss last year on account of rise of input prices such as maize and soybeans as well as declining sales in chickens and eggs.
Despite the price of maize, a key input, declining by 20 percent year-on-year, from N150,000 in March 2017 to N120,000 in March 2018, Nigeria poultry farmers eggs and chicken are still not competitive in the market.
Gumboro, a vaccine sells at N4,000 per 20 doses as against N1,000 sold in 2016. Lyfine is now sold for N48,000 as against N14,000 sold early last year, while Methionine goes for N64,000 as against N25,000 despite exchange rate stability.
The ban placed on some poultry products have not been effective and have made no real impact on actual foreign imports as the majority of these products continue to find their way into the country.
This has made smuggling poultry products, especially chicken and turkey, a big business for importers of these products.
Nigeria, Africa most populous nation, needs more than one million metric tonnes of poultry products annually to meet local demand. Figures from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), shows that Nigeria farmers are only able to produce 504,657 metric tonnes in 2016.
With the wide gap between supply and demand, smugglers are encouraged by the inability of local suppliers to meet demand for these products.
According to experts, smuggling of poultry products persists because of the huge demand of chicken and turkey in the country and is not likely to stop until Nigeria is able to increase its local production capacity.
Experts say that the country can only address the issue of smuggling when the governments at all levels deliberately provide land for poultry businesses and establish funding mechanism for the development of the poultry value chain.
Despite the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) strongly warning against the consumption of imported poultry products and threatening to take action against smugglers or dealers found with the banned products, these products have continually been found in the Nigerian market in high volumes.
Imported poultry products, especially chicken and turkey, have been identified as causative agent in non- communicable diseases (NCDs) and antibiotics resistance. Some of these health conditions include hypertension, kidney disease, and cancer, experts say.
Yet, many Nigerians still prefer patronising imported chicken over locally produced ones as the prices are cheaper and are easily available.
“Over 1million tons of chicken are smuggled into the country yearly. If these smuggled chickens are produced in the country, there will be jobs. But now these jobs are exported to the countries these chickens are imported from,” Toromade said.
One of the greatest problems confronting rural farmers and communities in Nigeria is the absence of critical infrastructure especially good roads.
Nigeria continues to suffer low levels of agricultural productivity due to infrastructural deficit across the country.
Due to the deplorable state of roads, farmers have to grow only what they can eat or the extra they can carry on their heads to nearby markets.
Most times, fresh fruits, vegetables and food get spoilt during transit, as a result of many hours or days spent in transporting the food items to where they are needed due to bad roads.
Meanwhile, urban dwellers have to spend very large percentage of their income to buy food. This is because the food that gets to the towns and cities are far more expensive than what the poor struggling farmers would have sold them.
The high prices of these commodities are blamed on the middlemen but they are also quick to point out that they incur huge costs transporting the food as a result of bad roads.
“The channel of eggs distribution in the country is faulty because the road network is bad and eggs are fragile commodities,” Toromade said.
A life line for farmers
Despite the large volume of eggs produced in Nigeria, the country has only one firm that is currently processing eggs into powder. Answer Industries Limited, makers of Karakara Chicken Egg Powder, is the only player in Nigeria and West Africa egg powder market.
Located at the outskirt of Atoyo Ijebu in Ijebu-East Local Government Area of Ogun State, Answer Industries Limited produces less than five percentage of what the country requires.
This shows the huge opportunity for processors of egg powder in the country and has become a life line for poultry farmers.
“We produce a ton of egg powder per day using between 3,400 and 4,000 crates of eggs per day. The demand for the powder is very high as we have a lot of food and beverage companies patronising us,” said Samuel Sewoniku, director of general operations, Answer Industries Limited.
“We use the spray drying technology that is used by the dairy industry in converting milk into powder to extract the moisture continent from the eggs, turning them into powder,” Sewoniku said.
He noted that investment in the technology is very vital for the country and the poultry sector in particular, as it would help address some of the fundamental problem besetting the sector.
Nigeria’s egg powder industry is estimated to worth $1 billion dollars (N350bn) currently with less than five percent produced locally. This implies that about $950million worth of egg powder is imported into the country.
On a monthly basis, an average of $79.2 million worth of egg powder is imported into the country. In terms of volume, this could not be ascertained as the country does not have any data for the industry.
The business is viable and suitable because eggs in powder form are more durable, stable, portable and applicable for multiple usages in various food and beverages industry, military establishments and production of fast foods, instant baby formula, beverage and health products; athletes’ and body building foods, several value added products including mayonnaise.