Agriculture Business

Nigeria’s livestock sub-sector: Challenges and way forward

By Adelola Amihere

The United Nations predict that by 2050, African population will reach 2.5 billion from 1.2 billion as of today with 56 percent of the population living in the urban areas. In a FAO report of 2018, gross domestic product which is currently at USD4.7 trillion is estimated to almost triple by 20150 resulting in increased purchasing power for African consumers.

These rapid transitions will have major implications for African agriculture, which will be challenged to supply affordably-priced, nutritious and safe food to an increasingly affluent and urbanized population. Evidence from other regions suggests the sector will undergo two major structural transformations in the coming decades.

The first is that, while the quantity and value of agricultural production will increase, the contribution of the sector to GDP and employment will reduce. Currently, agriculture accounts for 17.5 and 11.7 percent of GDP and contributes 57 and 22.3 percent to total employment in sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa, respectively. In high income countries, these shares are less than 2 and about 3 percent, respectively (WDI, 2018).

The second transformation is that livestock will become one of the most important sectors of agriculture in value terms. Today, it accounts for 25 percent of agricultural value added in Africa, and to 55 percent and 67 percent in North America and Western Europe, respectively (FAOSTAT, 2018). The reason is that, as economic development progresses, increasingly well-off consumers will move away from a predominantly cereal-based diet and start purchasing the high-value proteins that meat, milk and other livestock products offer, as well as fruits and vegetables.

This trend in animal source food consumption pattern, often referred to as Livestock Revolution (Delgado et al., 1999), will profoundly affect the development of African livestock in the coming decades.

Recent estimates indicate that Nigeria’s national herd comprises 18.4 million cattle, 43.4 million sheep, 76 million goats and 180 million poultry (FMARD,2017). The majority of animals are raised in extensive production systems comprising smallholders and nomadic herders. Large commercial holdings are currently rare but expanding, especially in the poultry subsector. Total production of milk, meat and eggs amounts to 0.5 billion litres, 1.4 and 0.6 million tonnes per year, respectively.

Importation of food amounts up to 3-5 billion USD per year, out of which milk accounts for 1.3 billion USD (NLTP, 2019). Including net trade, the per capita food supply of animal source foods is 8 litres of milk, 9 kg of meat and 3.5 kg or 55 eggs per year. Consumption levels of milk and meat are lower than the continental averages that are 44 litres and 19kg, respectively (FAOSTAT, 2019).

In a study published in 2019 by statista.com, between 2012 and 2050 the livestock population in Nigeria is forecasted to increase significantly. For instance, the poultry population might grow from 207.6 million to almost 1.3 billion heads, recording a growth by over 500 percent. The demand for livestock products is estimated to grow at annual rate by over three percent. Nigeria’s population is, indeed, growing at a very high rate. Its population is forecasted to reach over 400 million people by 2050.

However, as aptly captured in a report by FAO titled ‘Africa’s Sustainable livestock 2050, Transforming Livestock Sector Nigeria -what do long term projections say? Long-term projections do not reflect the current policy thrust, as they capture the fundamental forces underpinning society’s growth and transformation. In other words, while the projectionspaint a beautiful picture of what could be, the reality on ground is grim as the animal sub sector has continued to record a downward turn over the years.

Many stakeholders believe that the sector which has suffered neglect could be a major foreign revenue spinner for the nation, an overall and intentional holistic approach must be taken by the Nigerian government to develop the industry.

This was the thrust of discourse when the Animal Science Association of Nigeria(ASAN) and the NationalInstitute of Animal Science (NIAS) gathered in Abuja for its 9th ASAN-NIAS Joint annual meeting with the theme ‘ Improved Technology , A key Strategy for enhanced Livestock productivity and National Economic Development’which saw 150 new animal scientists formally inducted into the Institute and also chart ways through which the sector can be a contributor to the nations GDP.

The Registrar NIAS, Prof Eustace Iyayi pointed that the role of innovation and technology will have a positive impact on the animal sub sector. For him, there are two ways in which technology will have an impact. First on how much of animal products reach the people in the sense of deploying it to improve and increase production andsecondly, deploying it to also improve take production further into processing and market value products along the value chains for all the livestock species.

“Livestock is a very huge sub-sector of the nation’s economy. If you look at the value of all the animals we have whether it is cattle, poultry etc, it is a huge industry that runs into about 13 trillion naira. Now, if you calculate it along the value chain from production to markets and then we have not even looked at the possibility of any foreign earnings. From products that we should actually be exporting.

“I think that is the phase Nigeria needs to work into not just production for home consumption but also production for export. We need to work in that field and if you take it along that trajectory, we are looking at a very good industry of over 13 trillion Naira,” he said.

Challenges faced by the sector that has impeded its growth

Again, FAO’s report ‘The future of livestock in Nigeria: Opportunities and challenges in the face of uncertainty’ looks out to 2050 and presents alternative scenarios, or plausible portrays, of the future of the cattle and poultry sectors in Nigeria. It provides invaluable insights to decision-makers on actions to take today to make the Nigerian cattle and poultry systems more robust and resilient to an uncertain future, and sustainable from a social, environmental and public health perspective. It makes a strong case to broaden our perspective and take a forward-looking approach when designing policies and investments in dynamic and rapidly changing societies, such as that of Nigeria.

This view as captured by FAO also aligns with Prof Iyayi’s who laments that most challenges in the livestock industry have to do with funding and very unclear policies. Breaking it further down, he notes that lack of incentives for the primary producers and other stakeholders who are in business along the value chains. So even when some of them tried to associate themselves come together in cooperatives as well as production groups or business groups, access to finance has remained a very big challenge.

“Insecurity alsohas really affected the industry in the light of the farmer herder clashes. We know what has been going on. Before now the poultry industry is quite god and we used to be able to export eggs to countries like NigerChad all those not bother countries or that has been greatly affected because of the insecurity in the Northeast and Northwest. Then we have insecurity in terms of other areas. Look at also the southern part of the country where you have had, you know problems of kidnapping and the rest of it. This has greatly reduced investment incentives and ability of people to want to put money into the livestock industry.”

Way forward for the subsector

The growing demand for animal food and the transformation of the livestock sector represent major developmental opportunities for the country as livestock farmers, input suppliers, animal health service providers, processors, wholesalers, retailers and other stakeholders could significantly expand their business.

However, these opportunities come coupled with some major challenges that, if not properly addressed, risk jeopardising the development of the livestock sector and have broader negative impacts on public health, the environment and livelihoods

It is along these lines that the NIAS CEO hedges his view that one of the ways to see the development of the sector is through engagement of more youths into the agribusiness value chains that will reduce unemployment. For him, it is important to let youths knowand see that animal production as a business venture worth taking up and not just for the sake of just producing due to unemployment

“So, it’s business if you start a chicken business with 100 day old chicks, I can tell you that in a few months. You won’t even want a government employment. So, we’re trying to give them that picture. Hey, you don’t need to look for salary jobs”

Also highlighting what the Institute is doing to encourage youth participation in animal production, he added that “we have The Graduate animal scientists who are the base of the professional ladder. Those are the ones we also targeting grouping them into productive groups and see how we can provide incentives for them to make millionaires out of them because it’s a business that counts in millions.”

In conclusion, FAOs reportpresented four internally consistent views of what Nigeria and its cattle and poultry sectors might turn out to be in 2050. But it says none of the alternative scenarios will likely materialise and the future will comprise elements from all of them. They do, however, point to expanding business opportunities for actors along the value chain as well as to numerous common social, public health and environmental challenges.

It then behooves on government to take concrete steps and muscle up the political willpower to come up with policies aimed at encouraging more involvement in the animal sub sector. Policies that will cover the whole livestock value chain from production to processing. Adequate funding that will aid research in the sector as well as the provision of incentives to those already in the sector to help expand their businesses.

Targeted programmes for youth involvement in the sector should also start from the Universities as a way of encouraging the study and practice of Animal science. As stakeholders believe, not only can these move develop and grow the sub sector, Nigeria will become not only self-sufficient in its livestock needs, but also an exporting nation of livestock products.

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