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Stakeholders in the livestock sub-sector across the country have said that Nigeria loses more than N1 trillion annually to smuggled frozen foods such as chicken, turkey, fish and gizzards.
They blamed the huge loss on the Federal Government’s poor implementation of the ban on the importation of frozen products and ignorance of consumers who continue to patronise the banned products.
The stakeholders remarked that losing such a huge amount to smuggled products was a bad omen for a country that has launched a campaign to diversify its economy.
Since early 2000, the Federal Government had announced different measures to curb the activities of smugglers. One of the measures is the mandate given to Nigerian Customs Services to protect the nation’s borders against smuggling of banned goods, especially food items. But owing to the porous borders coupled with alleged corruption among Customs officers, smuggled goods usually deluge the Nigerian market, among them are the frozen foods.
OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE FOR DISCERNING INVESTORS AT HOME
An investment analyst, Mr Peter Adebayo, explained that smuggled foods are massively consumed in the country. According to him, the massive patronage such foods enjoy in the country is a proof that there is a wide gap between supply and demand for frozen poultry in Nigeria that needed to be bridged. He said that the local frozen poultry sub-sector has many investment opportunities that are awaiting exploration and exploitation of discerning investors. Adebayo further explained that items that entrepreneurs needed to invest on include, among others, slaughtering and de-feathering machinery, packaging and storage facilities as well as proffering marketing strategies to attract people to patronise the costlier but more hygienic and nutritious products.
“The smuggled but unhygienic frozen poultry costs about N1, 000.00 per kilo, while the hygienic to consume local frozen poultry costs about N1, 800.00,” Adebayo said.
He expressed belief that as more investors come into the industry, it would engender competition, reduction in the cost of production and price fall as experienced in the telecoms sector.
Adebayo described the business as a viable, money-making venture, which Nigerians in the Diaspora seeking lucrative businesses at home could invest in.
“Instead of losing as much as N900 billion to neighbouring countries, Nigerians at home and abroad should explore the opportunities in the subsector for making profit and creating jobs for the unemployed. The unemployed Nigerian graduate, who can put on his thinking cap, could also set up a small-scale poultry industry,” he said.
Adebayo noted that Nigeria has no business importing frozen poultry products, which could easily be produced at home, noting that investing in the sub-sector comes with the benefit of providing employment opportunities and creating wealth for Nigerians.
“The industry is shifting towards local frozen meat processing as there is a huge supply gap to be bridged in the market. It is the business of the future for the foresighted investor, who could key into it now,” he added.
On his part, an agricultural economist, Mr. Kehinde Ejioye, put poultry consumption in the country at 1.5 million tonnes, while estimating production to be about 350,000 MT, which leaves a demand and supply gap of 1.2 MT that is being met through smuggling.
Ejioye expressed optimism that if the supply gap could be closed by 30 per cent, it would translate to significant jobs creation for the unemployed.
“About 350,000 new jobs would be created in maize production, 75,000 new jobs in processing and 500,000 new jobs in ancillary raw materials, products and services sub-sectors.
“Reducing smuggling by just 30 per cent would result in the creation of about one million jobs. The future of the Nigerian poultry industry hinges delicately on firm decisions on the part of the policy makers to reverse the current unwholesome trends that tend to tilt the balance more in favour of smugglers, while putting the local producers in jeopardy. The investments of local producers need urgent safeguard and support that would enable them to remain competitive in the face of smugglers onslaught,” he warned.
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Meanwhile, the national president, Poultry Association of Nigeria, Dr. Ayoola Oduntan, has bemoaned the havoc being wreaked on the poultry sub-sector in the country by smugglers.
Oduntan, who observed that many Nigerians were interested in poultry farming, but lacked access to capital to actualise their dreams, urged the Federal Government and financial institutions to offer incentives such as low interest rate on loans and fixed assets to interested farmers in order to close the demand and supply gap in poultry products in the country.
He advised Nigerians to desist from eating imported poultry products, saying the chemical used in preserving them is the same that as the one used in preserving corpses.
“Many even ignorantly regard consumption of smuggled poultry as a proof of higher economic status, which induce them to shun the home-produced poultry. You would feel ashamed at the ignorance of our people at social functions, as they consume these foods with relish to their peril.
“Locally-produced turkeys or chickens are fresh; no preservatives is used. They are only refrigerated and kept in good sanitary conditions, because it is expected that within two or three days, they would be bought and consumed,” he said.
Oduntan posited that to correct the ignorance-induced wrong perception of consumers, the Federal Government should create a more business-friendly environment for the operators of poultry industry to encourage and increase their capacity and save about N1 trillion annually it has been losing to neighbouring zstates.
“Operators need incentives such as credit facilities with low interest rates and basic infrastructure to boost their capacities to close up the huge supply gap to meet the demand level. That in return will reduce the cost of production and price of the products. If that is not done, more local producers will shut down their firms and more Nigerians may be exposed to terminal diseases through the consumption of smuggled frozen poultry items,” Oduntan stressed.