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The significant role that sustained human capital development plays, especially in availing stakeholders on how to increase their products and processes for more profit in fish and poultry farming cannot be underestimated. The foretasted scenario was exactly what played itself out recently when Grand Cereals Ltd, Jos, a vital arm of the UAC conglomerate organised the UAC Farmers’ Conference. Tagged: ‘Importance of Nutrition on Profitability in Fish and Poultry Farming’ the Workshop which focused on the nutritional benefits of Vital Feeds enjoyed the tacit support of Ikorordu and Alimosho Lagos Farmers. It ran from Tuesday the 25th of June, at Rainbow Hall, along Sabo-Itamaga Road, Ikorodu through to Thursday, the 27th of June, 2019 at Shubus Event Centre, along Jakande-Ijegun Road, Ikotun.
According to Mr. Bukola Adelabu, the General Manager, Marketing and Business Development of Grand Cereals Limited (GCL) the highly interactive nature of workshops such as this, has always been part of the company’s programmes for over 20 years. It has also proved to be a veritable avenue for capacity building that bridges the knowledge gap between the farmers and the seasoned resource persons.
What more, the fact that it takes place in selected places across the country and sometimes in farm clusters underscores its direct relevance even to the local farmers. Amongst the challenges they face are accessibility to, as well as the affordability of the feeds that would increase the yield of both their fish and poultry products. Painfully, these farmers expend about 70 per cent of their costs of production on feeds alone! Both the factors of quality and performance of such feeds come into play. That is where Vital Feeds come in. As several of the farmers confessed it has always come in handy to increase their yields.
This, the company realises has placed the responsibility of meeting their expectations on its shoulders. So, GCL provides the technical services through their sales representatives, all of who have the requisite technical expertise. Besides, the workshops allow for feedback from the farmers. Focus is on both performance and profitability of the feeds. Its efficiency is determined by the feed-conversion ratio.
Indeed, Adelabu is calling on Nigerians both at home and in the Diaspora to avail themselves of the immense opportunities inherent in fish and poultry farming as their profit margins are quite high. Government should build farm settlements like the one in Odogiyan. It should provide infrastructure for concrete or tarpaulin ponds and assist feed millers with funds as they are groaning because of high cost of inputs.
His views were echoed by Mr. Pius Chomo, the National Sales Manager, Animal feeds with focus on fish farming. Something should be done about the importation of fish. Insecurity should be tackled so that farmers can operate in a peaceful atmosphere. Government support through the CBN should be increased to bring down prices at the farm gates.
According to Mr. Ajobiewe Samuel Bamidele, the CEO of Rehoboth Farm Consult located at Adamo, Ikorodu his relationship with GCL, spanning over eight years has proved profitable. Though he started with fish farming he has since expanded into poultry farming as well. He recalls that there was a period he and his colleagues had to try out some other feeds but the return of Vital Feeds has changed their business equation in a positive manner. Said he: “Their return moved us because back to them because of the image they had created and the impact of their consistency and availability of Vital Feeds.”
In his candid view, both the federal and state governments should assist farmers with startup capital which he has identified as a major challenge. Sound and solid infrastructure is another. In fact, he is of the opinion that government should create farm estates and lease them out to farmers. That will enable the farmers to put much of their money into production. He has observed that most of them are still doing less than 50 per cent of their expected capacity. That also goes for meeting the same percentage of the consumption need of Nigerians.
Workshops such as the one organised by GCl are important for networking, exposure to innovations in the agric sector, and unveiling of some undercurrent moves that would enhance profitability. It should come up at least once in a quarter to let the farmers know more on new innovations and provide solutions to persisting challenges.
On his part, Mr. Mulero Muibi, a consultant to GCL on Vital Feeds who has garnered working experience of 28 years has rated the feeds as the best in the industry so far. The challenges are indeed numerous. But the best way forward is what UAC is doing by bringing the best of brains together to proffer solutions that would mitigate the challenges the farmers face in their daily operations.
Farming, he noted has become an all comers affair. Out of ten there are likely to be only two professionals. So, they need expert advice. They need the requisite knowledge, vital information so as not to fall easy preys to charlatans. Also important is for the government to provide the enabling environment for profitable farming, including loans; good access roads and stable eclectic power supply. All these would reduce the challenges because “in Nigeria the farmers carry all the risks”.
Another farmer who testified to the increase yield she has enjoyed by using vital feeds is Mrs. Ilori Tunrayo of Gberigbe Piggery Company. She also happens to be the Secretary of the Piggery Fars Association in Ikorodu. Her concern however, is the high cost of input should any of her colleagues choose to prepare the feed on his own. For instance, the maize input goes for N95 per kg, soybeans N155 per kg, minerals N1,200 per kg, PKCA N38 per kg and metolin N2,800 per kg.
It is therefore, capital intensive and would want GCL to extend the workshop to those involved in the piggery sub sector. They would need more expert advice on management, feed quality and expanding the market.
A further interaction with Mr. Israel Yusuf, popularly called ‘Dr. Fish’ shed brighter light on the nitty-gritty of aquaculture and livestock for which he is a renowned expert. He has been on the field as both a consultant and researcher for over 15 years. His relationship with GCL has been from 2012. He is interested in information dissemination of the new steps to take for profitable fish and poultry farming directly to the farmers. He therefore, welcomes what GCL has been doing with the series of workshops.
He urges Nigerians to focus less on oil and more on agriculture as we an agrarian country. The challenges the farmers face span access to quality seedlings through marketing to poor infrastructure. Emphasis should be on how to develop every aspect of the value chain from production through processing to storage, preservation and marketing. Unfortunately, government has been playing lip service to all these issues.
Government should partner with the private sector particularly with GCL to assist it with funding for its vital feeds. The private sector is both result and profit-oriented. He gave the instances of how Delta state failed to improve on fish farming until CLEEN Foundation and Vigran Ltd came into a profitable partnership with it. That was between 20111 and 2012. A similar initiative between Akwa-Ibom government and Ford Foundation is yielding the bumper harvest.
In his words: “Now, it is a multi-billion dollar industry that has taken a lot of people out of the poverty bracket.”
Full of praise for the workshop was Mr. Sunday Olugua, the Chairman of the Lagos State Catfish and Allied Farmers Association (LASCAFAN). The members who have been in a working relationship with GCL since 2005 are delighted with the encouraging feedback mechanism. They believe in the promised fish-conversion ratio of 1:1.
Not only do they want the government to assist them to tackle the challenge of marketing they have observed that the CBN’s Anchor Programme has succeeded more in the North than in the South. Government should therefore, take a more critical look at the aquaculture industry down south and improve on funding it.
According to Olugua catfish breeding is cost intensive. He is also into processing and has discovered that the downturn in the economy has adversely affected sales. Said he: “Those who used to buy eight packs can hardly buy two packs because of the economy. Government should come in the area of feed production. With N2 billion subsidies to a company such as Grand Cereals, there would be a spin-off effect that would reduce cost of production and increase affordability.”
Diversification of the country’s economy from oil would be better enhanced through rich and robust workshops/seminars delivered by experts in the related fields. These are seasoned professionals who have literally seen it all, and are willing to share their wealth of experience with those ready to grow their businesses.
Ayo Oyoze Baje