THE statement made by the immediate past President of the Poultry Association of Nigeria, PAN, Dr Ayoola Oduntan, that N2 billion worth of locally produced chicken are wasting away in cold rooms in Nigeria, should embarrass all Nigerians as it makes a complete mockery of our Made-in-Nigeria slogan. It should also challenge us to save Nigeria’s poultry sector from collapse and boost our efforts at economic diversification.
Two billion naira worth of chicken, for a nation with a population of close to 180 million is not a lot, though to the poor chicken farmers operating in our difficult and underdeveloped environment, it is a colossal loss.
The approximately one million birds involved come to one chicken per 180 Nigerians. Then why are they being allowed to waste away?
The answer lies in our collective lack of patriotism and the failure of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, to effectively protect our local farmers and industrialists from foreign competitors. Far more than one million birds are smuggled into Nigeria every week and sold in supermarkets and other open markets while the Customs and the rest of us pretend not to notice.
Governments at Federal and state levels have to join hands to stamp out the smuggling of poultry products into the country by enacting laws in every state prohibiting the sale of chicken not bred in Nigeria. The penalties should be stiff enough to compel compliance. In any case, a lot of the poultry products imported into this country are suspect in terms of handling, with little care taken to protect Nigerians from harmful preservatives.
The Poultry Association of Nigeria, PAN, must also help itself. The truth is, most poultry firms only produce chicken and eggs. Most of them have no concrete sales plans. They hardly employ sales people; they expect customers to line up in front of their gates to buy what they produce. That is a fundamental flaw which the PAN must correct among its members. The world will not come to them; they must come out to sell their products.
Nothing stops PAN from helping its members develop their marketing channels and raising awareness among ordinary Nigerians on the nutritional and health benefits of poultry products. PAN and its members can also benefit from the experiences of their peers in foreign countries.
We are convinced that the wasting chicken in the cold-rooms is not as a result of product glut. The products are simply not being taken to the doorsteps of the consumers. The Federal and state governments have a duty to partner with PAN and its members to develop the poultry sector of the economy.
That is another job creation efforts.