More than half of Nigeria's poultry farms close amid national crisis

Economic upheaval has caused a sharp increase in the price of chicken and eggs

Nigeria's poultry industry has been hit hard by inflation, a shortage of grain and the effects of Covid-19 pandemic. Pelumi Salako for The National
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A year ago, Toheeb Balogun’s two-pen poultry farm was filled with birds, but not anymore.

His farm can hold up to 4,000 chickens but now has less than 1,000. The number continues to drop as he faces the effects of Nigeria’s economic crisis.

“The economic situation and inflation has really affected us,” he told The National. “We don’t operate like before anymore. Sometimes we get demands but due to our low capacity, we are not able to satisfy the customer and they have to just go somewhere else."

Mr Balogun is not alone. Nigeria’s poultry sector is going through a paralysing crisis caused by issues including inflation, a shortage of grain, the effects of Covid-19 pandemic and the floating of the naira, which has forced the cost of goods and services to increase sharply.

Last month, the Poultry Association of Nigeria said more than half of its members had to shut their poultry farms. This could hit the economy hard and affect millions of Nigerians who depend on the meat for a cheap source of protein.

The industry has a $4.2 billion value and contributes 25 per cent of Nigeria’s agricultural gross domestic product. It is responsible for between 6 per cent and 8 per cent of the country's total GDP and provides 25 million jobs. But the figures are dropping sharply as more farms close.

“The farms being closed down will also mean people are losing their jobs. Some people are out of business and the government cannot get tax returns from those farms,” said Seyi Awojulugbe, a senior analyst at sociopolitical risk consultancy firm SBM Intelligence.

Mr Balogun said he was forced to let go of two of his three employees because he could no longer afford to pay them. The poultry farm is now looked after by Mr Balogun, his two brothers and his last remaining employee.

Last year, Jamiu Soliu, a layers farmer on the outskirts of Ilorin, in north-central Nigeria, spent about 300,000 naira ($189) to buy medicine for his poultry. He has already spent half of that sum on medication this year. The price of feed has also increased from 9,600 naira to 13,700 naira during the same period.

“This is why the price of chicken and eggs remains on the rise, and our customers continue to complain,” Mr Soliu told The National. “We are spending more than ever, yet we are seeing very little profit.”

The crisis has driven up the price of a crate of eggs from 1,200 naira at the start of last year to at least 4,000 naira.

High product costs have forced Ilorin resident Aminat Ibrahim, 28, to stop buying eggs for her two children.

“My kids used to eat eggs daily, but since December that has stopped. This is because things have become too expensive and our income is barely enough,” she told The National.

Ripple effect

Abdulhakim Suleiman, manager at Shabram Farms in Ogbondoroko, on the outskirts of Ilorin, said the crisis was having a serious effect on people's daily lives. Petrol prices have increased fourfold after the withdrawal of a subsidy by the government, further deepening the crisis.

Mr Suleiman, who is paid 35,000 naira a month, said decreased spending power and low sales have led to significant delays in salary payments. “I have kids and a wife to feed, I have younger siblings that will make demands from me," he said. "So if the salary is not coming on time, how will I survive?”

“We are in Nigeria and there is not enough work so you have got to manage with anything you have."

Ms Awojulugbe believes the government should send part of the 42,000 tonnes of grain support it announced on February 14 to poorer communities, to ease the burden on poultry farmers and feed millers.

“This will help reduce the cost of production because feeds take 60 per cent of the cost incurred by poultry farmers. So, if the problem of animal feed is addressed, the cost of sale could decrease," she said.

Mr Balogun hopes the authorities step in to help save his poultry farm from going out of business. “The government should try to give concern and help young farmers like us. They can subsidise or regulate prices so that it can favour entrepreneurs,” he said.

Last December, Nigeria’s minister of state for Agriculture and Food Security, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi said the government is putting in place measures to help farmers.

“[The] government has been intervening to address some of these challenges, boost productivity, and enhance sustainability in the poultry industry in Nigeria,” he said.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security did not respond to The National's request for comment.

Updated: March 13, 2024, 6:13 AM