By Alphonsus E.W
Local bird production in the last 12 months to about 20% due to the deepening fears in the country arising from the consumption smuggled/imported poultry, thereby boosting farmers earnings and creating more jobs in the local industry.
The poultry, mainly chicken, are now sold by large emerging retail stores spread across urban areas. They are sold raw or smoked and are supplied directly or through distributors, by big agro companies such as Chi Limited, which have large farms and complimentary processing units.
The ready-to-cook chicken stocks are often made available in modern packaging and are well preserved through continuous freezing, which supermarkets have the capacity to provide.
This, along with the hygienic environment of these retail shops, is driving up sales, in spite of the higher prices.
A smuggled imported frozen whole chicken for instance, is sold for between N700 and N1,200 depending on the size, while the locally produced frozen chicken goes for as high N1,650 or more, in the supermarkets.
This however has not in any way diminished its demand by the growing league of high networth individuals who now have a habit of shopping for food in the supermarkets due to the assurance of hygiene, the beauty and safety of the environment, as well as safety of the environments and the benefit of available and free parking spaces.
This current growth was envisaged by the Nigeria Agribusiness Report in its third quarter 2011 edition, which predicted that between 2012 and 2015, due to rising living standards and expanding population, there would be an increase of about 23 percent growth in the poultry industry.
The prediction was based on increased government support, improved farming techniques and growing demand for poultry.
This increased demand for wholesome poultry stock by the middle class has been spurring business expansion among existing poultry producers, and also stimulating new investments.
Though there have been crises in the industry due to security challenges in the north of Nigeria, which led to lower demand for eggs from there, the growing middle class, their changing tastes and health concerns have spurred demand in the southern parts. Chickens and eggs are even being branded by producers as an assurance of quality.
Quail farming, another form of poultry, (a bird which is adjudged by health experts to be very beneficial healthwise, as it is very nutritious and does not contain cholesterol) is adding to the boom in the industry.
Also, the Nigeria Customs Service, in response to outcries of stakeholders and the efforts of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, has increased the interception and destruction of smuggled poultry products.
There are however still a lot of challenges experienced by producers in the country. These include high cost of input, and infrastructure challenges. But the domestic poultry industry as predicted by a 2011 Nigeria Agribusiness Report, is growing. Onallo Akpa, an executive of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) estimates commercial production at N51.2 billion (US$3.2billion) and rural family production at N320 billion, with 553,000 metric tonnes of eggs and 708,000 metric tonnes of broiler meat being produced as at 2011.