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|Namibia has broken a new ground for the African continent as its A-grade beef enters China, the world’s largest consumer market, opening an enormous opportunity for its ranchers but Nigeria continues to fail at elaborating a clear ranching policy.
Elia Kaiyamo, Namibian ambassador to China welcomed the first batch of Namibian beef, Tuesday, in China during a ceremony in Shijazhaung, in the Hebei Province.
Namibia is the first African country to export beef into China. Since 2005 the country has been in the process of obtaining access to the Chinese market for its beef products. A final memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed in March last year. The first agreement on animal health and quarantine, between the two countries, was signed in Beijing, 2011.
“Here, on behalf of my government and my people, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to all those who have been working hard to make this happen” Kaiyamo said.
China has been identified as an important market for Namibia as it imports 6.5 million tonnes of beef, 250, 000 tonnes of mutton, 2.3 million tonnes of pork and 1.7 million tonnes of chicken yearly. This is a market Nigeria can also compete for.
Namibia is a semi-arid country, well-endowed with natural pastures and is suited for extensive livestock ranching, comprising 37 percent of the land area. Its nature-based beef products have long been preferred favourable worldwide especially in European Union countries, Norway and South Africa. Namibia has less than 4 million heads of cattle.
Nigeria has a bigger potential but the absence of ranching facilities has stalled the development of this industry. A 2018 report by BusinessDay showed that Nigeria has an estimated 19 million heads of cattle and on a conservative estimation of N100, 000 per cattle; this comes to a N1.9 trillion market. The cattle market is filled with enormous potential for beef and dairy products.
However, Africa’s most populous country mostly imports from other countries for local consumption because locally bred herds are unable to meet consumption needs. Seventy percent of the cattle business in Nigeria depends on herds imported from Cameroun, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.
Incessant clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in different parts of the country has assumed a worrisome dimension such as the Boko Haram carnage, necessitating calls for the introduction of proper ranches for the cattle rearing business in Nigeria.
The beef export industry offers an opportunity for ranchers of all sizes to raise cattle for sale in foreign markets. Beef exportation mandates that ranchers, meat dressers preparing foreign cattle and beef marketers meet specific labeling and certification requirements. A requirement Nigeria has failed to meet for most of its agricultural products.
“We will grow grass in the South to feed the cattle in the North just Saudi Arabia did” Audu Ogbeh, outgoing minister of Agriculture and Rural Development had said. Ogbeh also suggested the creation of grazing areas in some parts of Nigeria.
The viability of these proposals remain doubtful as it is unknown how the government intends to regulate large expanse of land, where all manner of herdsmen will bring their cattle to graze.
Herdsmen’s decision to migrate in search of greener pastures has also been described as counterproductive. The north-south movement, and later south-north movement in search of pasture, consistently lead to losing whatever weight was gained during grazing periods. In the dry season, cattle could potentially lose as much as 50 percent of their weight without adequate feeding, which ranching may help deal with.
Livestock production in Nigeria, especially cattle in communal areas is constrained by a variety of factors that lead to low productivity. These include shortages of good quality livestock feed during the dry season, high incidences of diseases and mortality rates and unavailability of or access to healthy water.
Water points are sometimes limited and large numbers of animals use the same points leading to high chances of spreading diseases and land degradation. Other factors include the failure of government services to provide veterinary health services, poor housing, low soil fertility for forage production and weak market chains for livestock and livestock products. Other factors are extreme climate conditions such as floods and droughts and manmade factors such as livestock theft and careless starting of fires.
“Within the confines of the ranch, the animals can be sustained. You will be sure you can get feed and water for them, providing all these within the ranch.” Chryss Onwuka, a professor ruminant animal nutrition told BusinessDay in an earlier interview.