Cost of feeds, bane of animal husbandry

• Akinwunmi Adesina, Minister of Agriculture

• Akinwunmi Adesina, Minister of Agriculture

By Nkasiobi Oluikpe

Correspondent, Lagos


Pig farming is one area of agriculture that does not require a huge capital to operate, at least on a small scale. But Pig farmers, like most small scale agribusinesses are not left out of the harsh economic reality facing the country.

Though government have made some intervention funds available in the form of loans to these farmers and other Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), their complaints go beyond availability of funds.

As Gbenga Adewale, a registered pig farmer puts it, where the loans are available; they are not all that is required for the pig farmers.  The economic environment in the country, he said, is too harsh for pig farming sustenance. The cost input is too much, far outweighing the returns.

He said, “The business is very tough now. Sustaining all the animal husbandry business now is very tough. Government may say they are helping people, but that is absolutely a lie. Those people who say they have agric loan, are blatant liars, there is nothing like that for the real farmer. Except those that sit down in the offices, register one fake company, get the loans and use it for some other business purposes, but for the real farmers, there is no government assistance.

“One major problem facing pig, poultry and fish farmers, is feeding. The cost is on the high side and now, it is even becoming more terrible with the devaluation of the naira because for the fish farmers, the first one and the half months, the fishes eat imported food. Even the locally produced foods are also on the high side because of the inflation that is just pushing up.

“One of the major food in piggery and poultry farming is wheat offal, about a year ago, the cost of a 50kg bag is about N1,300 and we were saying it was too high. But today, it is about N2,500, whereas the cost of both the  pig and poultry products have not gone up, rather they have come down. Same goes for the fish business too. About a year ago, you are able to sell a kilo of fish for about N600 but now you even beg people to come and pick it for N500 whereas, the cost of feeding has doubled. Two years ago, a kilo of Palm Kernel Cake (PKC) sells for N18 (eighteen) while today it goes for N35 (thirty five).

“This makes the business very unprofitable and has led so many people to downsize. Like people who used to stock about 2,000 fingerlings, what they do is to stock about 1,000, so that they can be able to feed them. Many people have abandoned the pig business and what people who are still doing it do, is to cut down on the numbers. Though many people who do not understand what it entails, are rushing into it, but we equally know that by the time they enter, they will understand that it is not as rosy as it is being touted.

Since granting of loans do not solve the problems, is the pig farmer confined to a fate beyond him? According to the farmers, even if they are granted loans, it will be difficult for the loans to be paid back, not because they do not want to pay, but because they cannot pay it back.

Hamzat Kupoyi, a former pig farmer threw light into what he feels can be done to help the pig farmers from the current situation plaguing them. He said, “The problem is even when government grants loan, people will not be able to pay the loan because, unless you have a market whose cost is not too high to eat into your profit, that is, if your cost is about N80 and you are selling for N60, you will never be able to pay the loan.

“I think too much oil money being circulated in the economy is not helping agric. The only way government can come in is if government can subsidize the animal feeds. Take the wheat offal for instance, government can buy it in bulk and sell to farmers’ cooperatives at subsidized rates. But I won’t subscribe to government giving pig farmers loan; any loan given without reducing the cost of feeding is dangerous.

Kupoyi explained that the situation is beyond the pig farmer. He said the manufacturing industry is not finding it any easier. “You can calculate the hours of power supply you get from PHCN, as I am talking to you, virtually everybody in our compound are on generator. Those things are there. Loan is good when the environment is right, but when you are operating under a harsh environment, it will make nonsense of the whole thing.

“If you look at what happened to other intervention funds like the textiles fund, has it been able to revive any textile industry? It is because there are so many factors. People will just take the money and before you know it, it is gone. Money to me is not the problem of agric, what needs to be done is finding a way of reducing cost of feeding.”

Kupoyi corroborated Adewale’s stance that most of the collectors of the loans, do so under the guise of agric intervention but divert the monies into other ventures.

“I can assure you that some of these people that take these loans collect them and register some companies based on that loan, but when they collect the money, they will divert it to other businesses such as housing, import and export. They don’t put it into what it is obtained for, if you do that, that money will go down. That is why intervention funds in aviation and other sectors of the economy have never worked anywhere because the environment is not conducive,“ he said.

While the scenario above represents the cases of those who are facing challenges, there are also those who, despite the harsh economic situation, are counting their blessings on the pig farming agribusiness.

Boluwaji Iwajomo, an Akure based lawyer, started the pig farming business just before his graduation from the university. According to him, the fear of being unemployed made him go into the business. And five years down the line, he has made tremendous success.

“It was very worrisome seeing that many graduates including my humble self were going to join the unemployment market with no hope, but depending on good old government to provide employment. I was scared and felt there had to be another way out, especially for sustenance. This decision has paid off for me with even greater promises,” he said.

Narrating how he started, Iwajomo said, “I started my pig farm about three years ago, combining it with my busy schedule as an attorney. He said, “We started with one male and two female pigs, which multiplied rapidly. Today, we have about 430 pigs on our farm. I am an employer of labour; I pay salaries of two staff and business is growing and good. With a growing business, and my ever so busy law practice, I have been able to create additional income to help support our family.”

Contrary to the situation highlighted by Adewale and Kupoyi, Iwajomo said that the cost of feeding the pigs is cheap. “Feeding pigs is cheap. We visit local schools and eateries to collect left-over foods and buy pig feed at a local mill.

“We intend to expand and we are sure that with the revolution in the agriculture sector as we see under this present administration, the future for small-scale farmers like us is bright. With determination, there are many options out there that can create self-employment. You do not have to be a graduate of agriculture to own and start a farm.”

Iwajomo said that owning a pig farm will not take one away from one’s primary profession, but would rather add extra income to the pocket, making such a person an employer of labour, who is helping in feeding other families.

If every graduate takes a cue from this, he says, the level of unemployment in the country will reduce drastically. Iwajomo also said that the farmer-friendly policies of the current administration, such as the Growth enhancement Scheme (GES) that heavily subsidies costs incurred by registered pig farmers around the country, have been supportive.

But the GES, Adewale pointed out, is muddled up. He said as a registered pig farmer, they were once called to fill a form to get products from the government. After filling the form, some days after, they were called up to come pick up fertilizers, some rice grains for planting and maize.

As an animal husbandry farmer, he asks, of what use are all those products to him. It can only profit those who are into plant/crop cultivation. “If I had collected those products, it would still have ended up in the market,” he said.

Adewale isn’t the only animal husbandry farmer lamenting the harsh economic situation in the country. There are several others. The GES initiatives, where available, could be extended to the animal husbandry farmers. In their own case, it could come in the form of distribution of feeds and selling it to them at subsidized rates.

Many believe that beyond making those feeds available at subsidized rates, government should follow up with monitoring exercise, as reports have it that most of this initiatives end up in the wrong hands, leaving out the real farmers for whom they are made.

That way, rather than having people opting out of the pig farming agribusiness, more and more people will be venturing into it.

When it is considered that it does not really take a long period of time for a well groomed pig to attain maturity and marketable weight, one will be tempted to say, it is indeed, a lucrative business to venture into, coupled with the value chain of the product.

Experts say one is sure of return on investment in pig farming between eight and 12 months. Between eight and nine months of age, a female pig can give birth to between six and 12 piglets twice a year.

Another issue that makes it appears more like a viable venture is that its meat is sold as pork for consumption with low water content and better energy value than other meats; the meat is also used in various forms of baking. The lard (fat) is used as cooking fat and as a spread similar to butter. It is also used in paint making, soap and other chemical industries. Though its use in contemporary cuisine has diminished, but many contemporary cooks and bakers still prefer it to other fats for specific purposes. Pig manure is widely used as fertilizer for agriculture farms and fish ponds. In fact, there is good market demand for pig products.

This, in addition to the repeated publicity and support to investors in agriculture by government, has contributed to several people trying their hands on it. But as a popular adage goes, the sound of the kola nut isn’t same as its taste. It takes a lot of passion and commitment to venture and get sustained in pig farming. This is because, unlike previously, when it is easy to see pigs straying in their numbers around neighbourhoods, burrowing and feeding on almost anything on sight, pig farming today is a career and has attained a modern dimension.

Today, no pig farmer truly worth his salt will allow his pigs to stray. Beyond being unhygienic, he or she may be subjected to the wrath of the law, should the pig wreck any havoc on the neighbourhood. Hence, you must be fully prepared to take it up holistically.

To go into pig farming now, you must be registered to a group in a particular locality; acquire a pen to house the pigs, engage the services of a constant veterinary doctor, have responsible and qualified workers who will not only assist you in the breeding but will help to ensure maximum hygiene, though that depends on the number of pigs, and finally, you must have enough money to feed the pigs until they are matured for sale.

This is also added to the fact that if the government catches wind of your agribusiness deal, you will be forced to be a regular visitor to the tax office.

Source : Independent

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