Why foreigners’ involvement in poultry business must be limited —Ogunnaike
Chief Emmanuel Folorunsho Ogunnaike (MFR), is the chairman of Folhope Limited, a company renowned for integrated farming which includes livestock production, arable crop production, aquaculture, among others, with vast experience spanning over four decades in the agriculture sector of the Nigerian economy. In this interview with NURUDEEN ALIMI, he enumerates various challenges militating against the growth of agriculture, particularly the poultry sector in Nigeria and suggests ways to address them.
Sir, it seems you are still worried about the way things are in the agriculture sector in Nigeria, what are those things that are bothering you?
As I always say, the agriculture industry is facing serious challenges. Among these is electricity supply which has constantly become irregular. We find it very difficult to operate farm business with the current tariff which is relatively on the high side couple with inadequate electricity supply. The only alternative we have is the power generating set which also expensive to run as a litre of diesel is being sold for N250. Nobody can engage in this venture to run agriculture business and record any breakthrough.
Another thing is the issue of loan that is under one digit and the loan should be made available and be less problematic. The Central Bank of Nigeria should ensure that the loan is evenly spread. When I say it should be evenly spread, it does not mean that what is given to A is what should be given to B. But they just have to make sure that those that are qualified and competent to run viable and profitable agriculture business are the one having access to bank loans and not absentee farmers or political farmers who will be diverting the money to other purposes outside agricultural production.
And even if the money is given to a particular organisation more than necessary that is if the money is one-sided larger percentage of it will be spent on window dressing and the money that might have been spent on this can not yield the desired result of food security and food surplus in the country.
Then on the issue of roads, nearly all our rural roads are in a very deplorable condition. Good roads are one of the ingredients required for smooth running of agricultural business in any part of the World. Fixing of roads should be paramount to the government of the day. Also, the issue of insecurity is a bone of contention. People are running away from the farms right now due to insecurity. Fear of killing, maiming and fear of kidnapping.
And for your information, 60 per cent of the food available in our local markets are being produced by peasant farmers. And the peasant farmers are out of the business right now. If care is not taken, in the next one and half years, there is going to be a serious famine, serious scarcity of food therefore, the government should do something urgently to give remedy to all these challenges that are facing the agricultural sector in the country.
How is the poultry business doing at the moment?
Poultry business is facing serious challenges. Getting to four and half decades in the business, I can tell you authoritatively that we have never had it so bad like this. We have glut, there is no demand for egg being produce. Even there is no demand for the chickens as it used to be. For example, during the last ramadan we did not even feel that ramadan was going on. Whereas in those days we normally dispose off all we have thereafter people will be looking for more. But this time, it is a different story entirely. I can tell you authoritatively that we have never had it so bad in the area of egg marketing and other poultry products marketing. Like this very particular year, it is highly astonishing.
What can you say is responsible for this?
The purchasing power is one of it and then high cost of production is another issue. Also, it appears people venture into poultry business more than necessary. Even the foreigners are more or less hijacking the livestock business in Nigeria as of today. If you want to allow any foreigner to compete with us in the area of livestock production, there must be a quota system, there must be a limitation. But in the area of crop production, they can go into crop production in a very large scale without any limitation. But if you allow them to dominate livestock industry in Nigeria it will destroy the nation’s economy in the area of foreign exchange earnings. because when they might have produced livestock particularly poultry in a very large scale and there is no enough grains to sustain it they will take to importation of grains either legally or illegally and they require foreign currency to do this. So I would not like to say much but as I have said earlier, let them compete with us in the area of crop production, let them go into production of grains in abundance, millet, soya, groundnuts and so on. But in a situation whereby everybody is venturing into poultry production in a very large scale, will spell doom for the poultry industry. People may have different opinion, but from my own practical experience, I think there should be limitation to the involvement of foreigners in the poultry industry in Nigeria.
There have been calls from various quarters of the agriculture industry that the role of government in agricultural practice should be limited and that the private sector should be allowed to fully take control of the agriculture space in Nigeria. What is your take on this?
It is actually a welcome development because to me all the government needs to do is to create enabling environment for agricultural production to succeed in Nigeria. Just like what former President Olusegun Obasanjo said many years back. He said that he has never seen any project that is being handled by the government that is profitable. So in that case, let the government create enabling environment for agricultural production to strive. If you are able to make profit from NNPC, if you are into oil production, oil refinery and we are running at a loss the same thing will happen to another area of production, therefore, let individuals go into farming and let government provide enabling environment for them to survive.