The Impacts Of COVID-19 Pandemic On The Production, Trade And Marketing Of Livestock – With Emphasis On Chickens And Eggs

Factually, the Nigerian poultry industry has a long history. Commercial poultry farms sprang up in Nigeria in the early post-independence years. In fact, a few modern farms existed before Nigeria gained independence. In the oil boom days, Nigeria witnessed an expansion of her poultry and dairy industries, but this progress was reversed during the economic depression of the 1980s.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is the main organ of government responsible for overseeing the poultry industry in Nigeria. In addition, there are other government organizations or parastatals which regulate various aspects of the poultry value chain.

Poultry production offers a very fast and healthy approach to meeting the growing demand for animal protein. Nigeria’s poultry production has grown steadily this century, despite the myriad of challenges faced.  According to Rabobank’s 2017 report, the four West African countries of Ghana, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Benin show the most potential for poultry sector development, in terms of increasing local demand and the incentives available, both fiscal and non-fiscal.

Agriculture accounts for 35% of Nigeria’s GDP as at 2020(?). Before the ascendancy of oil, agriculture was the country’s major earner of foreign currency. Now that oil is on the decline, there is great clamour for diversification of the Nigerian economy. This has redirected attention to agriculture and now the government of Nigeria is paying unprecedented attention to agricultural development – both as an instrument for reducing the nation’s import bill and as a potential leading source of foreign currency.

The Nigerian poultry industry, being the most well-organized sub-sector in the agriculture sector and contributing 25% of the total agricultural contribution to GDP, was positioned to benefit from the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS) established by the federal government of Nigeria as measures to assist the poultry industry development. The poultry industry has also witnessed tremendous technical improvement over the last decade and continues to contribute toward achieving Nigeria’s food sufficiency and economic growth.

Chicken makes a fantastic substitute for red meats. A great source of protein, the meat has been linked to a variety of health benefits such as Stronger Bones and Muscles, Weight Management and Heart Health, Chicken is filled with high-quality proteins and doesn’t contain much fat — especially if you eat lean cuts. Beyond its rich protein content, chicken also contains: Vitamin B12, Tryptophan, Choline, Zinc, Iron, Copper, etc.

In the United States alone, around 9 billion chickens hatch every year for the sole purpose of growing to an edible size and dying for human consumption. Another 65 billion chickens are raised for food worldwide, bringing the daily total of chickens killed to about 178 million, subtracting those that do not live to see the slaughterhouse.

Heise 2015 stated that Nigeria has the largest annual egg production and second largest chicken population in Africa. The study further revealed that the Nigerian poultry industry comprises of about 180 million birds while of these, 80 million chickens are raised in extensive systems, 60 million in semi-intensive while the remaining 40 million in intensive systems. Poultry production in Nigeria amounts up to 300 Metric Tons of meat and 650 Metric Tons of eggs per year and about 85 million Nigerians are involved in poultry production (many on a small to medium scale).

The COVID-19 pandemic highlights that we exist in a global community. From a single city, it spread to 188 countries across the world and as of 10th of October, 2021, according to World Health Organization, there have been 237,383,711 confirmed cases and 4,842,716 deaths. In Nigeria, details from the NCDC dashboard as at the same date indicated that, 207,978 cases have been confirmed, 195,626 cases have been discharged while 2,756 unfortunate deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

Decades of modelling pandemics predicted potential consequences, but COVID-19’s impact on the food supply chain, and specifically livestock production was unexpected. According to the United States Poultry Association through the Department of Agriculture/ NASS Poultry Production and Value 2020 Summary noted that the value of sales from chickens (excluding broilers) in 2020 was $18.8 million, down 50 percent from $37.6 million in 2019. The number of chickens sold in 2020 totalled 185 million, down 1 million(?) from the total sold in 2019 which was 187 million, down 2 million(?) from the total sold during the previous year; this indicate a decline in the value of the supply chain of chicken.

The emergence of a novel pandemic disease should not have taken the world by surprise. More recently, the 2009 swine flu pandemic (in which about xyz million birds were culled) infected about 61 million and killed an estimated 284,000 people. The Covid-19 pandemic has social, religious, political, and economic consequences on the global economy. Some people might argue that it is too early to discuss the effects of the pandemic on the poultry sector. However, the pertinent question is, when likely will the pandemic be over? According to experts, the Covid-19 pandemic may not go away anytime soon. Besides, there is no cure for it now. Therefore, it is essential to discuss the consequences now that we join the rest of the World to celebrate the chicken sector, so that measures will be taken to cushion the effects of the pandemic on the stakeholders and the livestock.

With that said, the effects of Covid-19 pandemic on livestock industry are myriad. Livestock suffer a great deal due to restrictions on the movement of personnel, availability of feed ingredients/ materials, drugs, and vaccines, which are very vital in poultry production. Farmers are making a lesser profit due to reduced consumption of different animal products; the paying of farm workers is paramount and important in farm growth. (Akanbi et al., 2020).

Chickens and eggs are copious and readily available sources of protein. With lowered production, limited availability is inevitable, which will likely result in prices going up.  Most farmers have lost between 35 and 40 percent of their resources because sometimes we cannot sell, but we keep producing. Like hatcheries, day-old-chicks when we hatch, we cannot deliver them to farms. Eggs are supposed to be the number one thing as a palliative. In fact, the demand for eggs is supposed to have risen drastically due to its nutritional content, but the reverse is the case. The impact on the poultry sector has a domino effect on the rest of the agricultural chain.

The high cost of key inputs such as seeds, vaccines, and feeds across the country is frustrating farmers who are struggling to survive the difficult moment. The prices of farm inputs are surging owing to foreign exchange (FX) volatility, as most of the vaccines and drugs used in the country’s livestock industry are imported. Naira exchanged at N380 to a dollar at the parallel market before the COVID-19 outbreak, but this skyrocketed to N480 to a dollar due to dollar scarcity attributed to low oil prices and oil glut.

Nigeria depends on crude oil for over 70 percent of its FX needs and revenue, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), a 25kg bag of layers marsh now sells for N4, 800 as against N3, 200 sold before the COVID-19 outbreak, while broiler finisher marsh now sells for N5, 000 as against N3, 750 pre-COVID-19. Even prices of day-old chicks have also surged by 10 percent amid the virus. The fact is that anything that affects poultry industry affects other sectors of agriculture. If you cannot sell day-old chicks, how can you afford to buy poultry feeds? If you cannot sell poultry feed, how will you be able to buy soybeans and corn? So these are the challenges.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the production and marketing of agricultural products. No doubt, the pandemic has worsened the food insecurity situation in the country. The demand and supply chains of agricultural products and foods internally and externally have been affected due to the measures adopted to contain the spread of the disease. Farmers find it difficult to obtain seedlings, fertilizers, pesticides, and farm implements. Moreover, labour-intensive agricultural production processes have been affected due to labour shortages and logistical constraints.

Additionally, the timing of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria disrupts farming activities. The virus has a devastating effect and can easily affect the food security status of households either directly or indirectly. According to World Health Organization (WHO), the global population rate as at before covid-19 kick started on 31st of December, 2019, was 7.8 billion people while as at October 2021, the total confirmed death due to Covid-19 is 4. 85million people. This report shows that the Earth population has reduced which also has a negative impact on the livestock production. As the global population decreased due to the Covid-19 pandemic and possible hunger in most developing countries of the world (even though world population increased overall as a result of higher average life expectancy), it is noteworthy to say poultry products suffer consumption decline as an average individual just wants to survive without considering the nutritional requirement of the body system for functionality and production. 

Demand for livestock products in the future can be heavily moderated by socioeconomic factors such as human health concerns and changing socio-cultural values. There is considerable uncertainty about how these factors will play out in different regions of the world in the coming decades.

Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused an upsurge in the paucity of these livestock making it hard for farmers to get them out to markets due to the lockdown orders and sudden high cost of feed and feed materials. This, in turn means there is little/no profit for livestock farmers at this crucial time.

It is assumed that if Nigeria had fully utilized the opportunities in value addition, the impact of the pandemic on the sector would have been limited. Fresh eggs can be processed into powder, and fresh fruits can also be processed and preserved for future uses, but this is not happening on a wide scale even though the country is the largest producer of eggs in Africa, with 10.3 billion eggs produced annually. The country has been losing a lot of money due to our inability to process eggs into powder. It has really been a tough situation for poultry farmers.

Finally, timing is key. Chicken farming needs proper logistical planning to ensure optimal timing on maturity for the sale of meat and eggs. When maturity occurs, farmer could not get their products to market due to measures put in place by the government to control the spread of the pandemic. Farmers incur additional upkeep expenses that affect the profit margin of the business.  Small and medium farmers are the bulk in Nigeria. For continued livelihoods and food supply of poultry products and other food value chain items, the time for innovative thinking is now.

This needs to be both from the producers and support partners in the value chains like day-old chicken providers and feed providers. Viable interventions include acceptance and usage of e-platforms and vendors by producers and provision of storage for the poultry products as the producers secure a sustainable market. It is estimated that there will be a 10 or 12 percent reduction in farm produce in the year ahead. If the coronavirus continues to spread to rural communities, the reduction might get to 25percent.

Many farmers did not receive any form of palliative from the government despite that their businesses have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The government needs to come to the assistance of farmers to survive through this pandemic, most especially the poultry farmers. We need to start processing eggs into powder and other products and also process fruits into concentrate to help address the issue of wastage and post-harvest losses in the country and also increase the shelf life of our highly perishable produce. Raw eggs are said to last about four weeks, while powdered eggs can last up to a year.

#HappyWorldChickenDay #WorldChickenDay #ChickenDay

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