SPECIAL INTERVIEW WITH AN INDUSTRY EXPERT
FAD: Please tell us about yourself Sir
MR CHIDIEBERE: My name is Amanze Chidiebere. I am the managing director of Cifek International Limited. I had my first degree from University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I had my Master’s degree from The University of Port Harcourt where I majored in nutrition. I had my MBA from Lagos State University. I am a certified member of Quality by The American society of Quality. I hold different certifications in the area of animal nutrition, health and safety, quality management and also in sales and marketing.
FAD: What do you think are the challenges of poultry farmers in Nigeria now? The things that you think are the major problems.
MR CHIDIEBERE: Like we all know, the poultry industry in Nigeria has many problems. The major ones are first, cost of input. A lot of money goes into the input. Input is feed, for those who are not making their feed, they buy the feed at a very high cost. For those who make their own feed, cost of making the feed is expensive because of the cost of feed additives. When you take out the feed, you face the challenge of running the farm daily because there should be steady light and now the cost of diesel is expensive. There is no electricity in some of those areas so it makes it difficult for them to maintain steady power supply because it is self-generated.
Another problem they are facing is demand of the finished product. As a farmer, when they produce they should either produce mainly eggs or meat which is in form of chicken. So, the demand for some of these products is not much because we still consider poultry produce as luxury. Somebody eating egg is seen as luxury. In Nigeria today, the income of an average Nigerian has reduced so they consider main things which is like eba. They see poultry product as luxury and that reduces the demand. T he little demand left is affected by smuggling of frozen foods from neighbouring countries which compete with the little market that is available. It happens that a farmer will produce at a very high cost and sell to a market where there is even low demand now making the consumers to determine the price of what they will pay so you see a farmer selling at a loss some times because he has put so much in the production and he is selling at a low price in a market that is not so demanding.
Another thing from my experience is theft. Farms experience theft. Not all farms but from middle scale farms to small scale farms experience that because sometimes people steal among the staff. By this process, they reduce the daily production.
Next, is the availability of experts. There are not so much veterinarians that visit farms especially small scale farmers which are the most common these days in Nigeria. When you aggregate them, you will find out that small farmers are more than large farmers in Nigeria. Some of these farmers run their farms without professional advice and they look for products that they feel is cheap which may not be cheap at the end of the day because when they use a cheap product that is not working, they end up spending more. These are some of the challenges, they are many but let us talk about those few.
FAD: From your wealth of experience in the industry and also as a professional, what do you think farmers should be doing to get better results in their poultry farming business even at this time.
MR CHIDIEBERE: The first thing is to come together, have a very good union that can speak with one voice and be able to make demand from the government, be able to learn from each other and support each other because across other places farmers have formidable unions through which they can demand for some certain things from the government. They may not be able to fix price but they should be able to come together, share problems and come up with solutions among themselves.
Secondly, they should keep records. Most farmers don’t keep good records because it is from records that you can detect if there is a loss or not, areas of improvement or not. There is this saying that ‘what is not measured cannot be improved upon’. They should keep good records of their input, of their output, of everything going on in their farms. They should use products that are cost effective, not really cheap but products that give value because by the time they abandon products that are of good quality for products that are cheap, they are undoing themselves. Some of those products don’t work and they blame it on the product or the poultry business because there are still farmers who are profitable in the business and who go for products that give them result as they are result oriented.
When I say they should form unions, they should also make some demands from the government because most farms in the north are closed because of insecurity because they can’t provide security by themselves. It is a government thing but with one voice they may prevail on government to look into this. On the other hand, most of the micro ingredients in feed today are imported with agencies of government still charging high import duties and taxes on these products high in turn is a component of high cost of feed. So when they come together, they will be able to make such demand. When we talk of feed additives or expensive cost of feed, feed is expensive because of the inputs that goes into it and these inputs, most of them are imported. These imported inputs are also charged. They pay high duty charge. If they are able to know where the high cost element of their input is coming from, when they come together they should be able to make such demand.
They should also partner with crop farmers because livestock farmers should not exist alone. They need soya, maize and a lot of crop produce that goes into feed production. When crop farmers aren’t farming, it will affect livestock farmers. Livestock farmers should see crop farmers as partners in progress and work together with them because the output of the crop farmer is an input for the livestock farmer.
Poultry farmers should also reinvest in poultry business. I have seen a couple of situations where people run a poultry, become profitable and use the proceed to establish other businesses and leave the poultry as they are. When I say re-invest, I mean some of them should become integrators where they can process their broilers especially and get better value. They can also do backward integration by having crop farms. These are some of the things I think the poultry farmer should be able to do.
FAD: What do you think the Government should be doing to support poultry farmers in Nigeria?
MR CHIDIEBERE: The role of government in a sector or industry is to first create an enabling environment. If there is no environment that enables business to thrive, no matter the sector business will not thrive. The government should create an enabling environment that makes it easy to do business. There was an initiative headed by the vice president Osinbajo on ease of doing business. That ease of doing business should see the light of the day. They should increase it. If you want to do business in Nigeria, in the poultry sector or in the farming sector; they should encourage that and not make it difficult for farmers or interested investors in that area to do so.
Another thing is that the government should provide security because it is part of the fundamental functions of the government. Like I mentioned earlier, a lot of farms in some places have shut down because these farms are in remote places even when they are not in the North; within the western region also. Most of them are in isolated areas. When farmers think their security is jeopardized, they may not be able to make out time to go there. Staff will be scared and the investment there will be lost so they should provide security. Government should also invest in technology because some of the farmers who want to produce integrate, maybe process their own products are faced with the challenge of electricity because you need to cool assuming you want to have a cold room. So it is the government that will provide that electricity because self-generated electricity is very expensive. G overnment should provide electricity for farmers and also provide good roads because part of the problems which farmers are suffering from that I didn’t mention earlier is transportation.
How much does it cost them to move soya from the North down to Lagos and how long? It will take them a long time before it will get down here because the vehicles are not in good shape. If it is during raining season, rain will soak the maize and by the time they get to Lagos there will be high level of aflatoxin and so many other issues. Some of them on the road, the vehicle may have accident and they lose a lot of things. Sometimes a vehicle transporting eggs passing through bad road, before it gets to the final point of discharge some of the eggs are broken. So it is in the hand of the government to create these enabling environments, create good roads and also support farmers.
There should be incentives. We have youth corps members who just completed their service year but there is nothing to get them interested in farming. This is done in other places having seen agriculture as a very key area of national development, government should find a way to make farming attractive to the people, remove duty from some of the agro inputs because it doesn’t make sense that we say we are promoting agriculture; we don’t produce some items here that are critical items in farming and those things are charged at high duty. You are indirectly telling them not to do that. Fertilizer is duty- free because it goes to crop farm. What are the input for livestock farmers that are duty-free ? Because these things are not from Nigeria, they are imported so when you import them you pay high duty which will obviously be transferred to the end user (farmers).
Government should look at these areas and make livestock farming a very lucrative sector by incentivising it and making sure that there is also market. They should enforce the ban on imported poultry produce especially the chicken, processed chicken. They should ban it but it is still sold in the Nigerian market. So each time we use our naira to buy that imported chicken, we are developing another country and killing our own country. This is because the farmers who are here have invested so much to produce their own chicken and nobody is buying it saying it is expensive but it is even the healthiest. I don’t want us to talk about the nutritional difference between the imported chicken and our own locally grown chicken. There is a whole lot of nutritional difference which favours the locally grown chicken so it is harmful to buy the imported chicken; health wise and economic wise. So the government should step up and make sure that we don’t see that trade which is smuggling and importation of chicken thriving in Nigeria.
FAD: Tell us briefly about your company and your products so that farmers can get to know some of your products and how they can be of benefit to them.
MR CHIDIEBERE: We sell feed additives and nutricitical products. Nutricitical products are products in form of nutrients that act as pharmaceuticals. In other words, when birds or animals use these products, it reduces the medication level that those birds are placed upon. Our products ranges from Toxin management. Toxin is a very big challenge in the poultry sector which is not only affecting the animals but also affects the humans because it actually starts from crops, it gets transferred to the animals and ifnot stopped, the animal transfers to humans through milk, egg and meat. This can be contracted from the animal in many areas and this affects the human system. It breaks down the human immune system.
So we have products that manage toxins in different ways. We have a product that we call Escent S. it is actually a technology that functions in different ways making sure that toxins is handled in different forms. First, it bio transforms them. It converts them from the harmful state to a harmless state. It eliminates them from the animal system. The ones that cannot be converted from harmful to harmless are removed. Some are binded because toxins manifest in different ways.
There are over 500 species of toxins and they behave differently so in order to have a comprehensive guard against them, this product has been developed. I forgot to mention to you that we work with Innovad. Innovad is a Belgium company that produces high end and very innovative products in farm management; the feed additives and the nutriciticals. We have both liquid and feed grade products. The feed grade products are products that can be added while making the feed so the animal eat them from the feed. We have some other products in liquid form that are added through drinking water, so when the animals drink the water they have gotten the product. So for farmers who don’t make their own feed, they have the benefit of using this product in liquid form and still get the same result. And the good thing is that most of our products are multi-functional. They don’t just do one thing.
Another interesting thing is that our products are made from natural ingredients, they are not synthetic.
Innovad is one of the leading companies in the world that has not only invested in research and development or in production but has also developed in backward integration. They have crops that are used for making these products so they don’t outsource it or buy elsewhere. They have farms in different regions of the world where they grow these crops and herbs which are used to make the products. That way they are able to monitor the quality of what they use and ensure consistency so that what we have done today is what we are doing tomorrow and the day after in terms of quality. So we have products also for gut health management because gut health is a very important aspect of livestock farming. We spend so much in feed and if this feed gets into the animal’s system without proper digestion and absorption into the system, then they are passed out as droppings which is a waste to the farmer.
We have products that optimize the gut system of animals to make sure that all ingredients that are contained in the feed or in the drinking water are optimally absorbed into the system and also stop the gut from leaking because when the gut is leaking, it is the nutrient that is going out which is a waste. So we have products that improve growth naturally, products that will manage toxins, products that will preserve feeds. We also have vitamins in the range because Innovad makes a lot of products . We have yoke colourants and so many other products both for farmers and feed millers. We have acidifiers; a blend of selected organic acids. All these products depend on application and user; farmers or feed millers. If you are a farmer either integrator, you make your own feed or you don’t, we have unique products that are cost effective across board.
FAD: We will like to also know what your company is doing to help poultry farmers succeed more and better in the farming business
MR CHIDIEBERE: Like I said, we work with Innovad and Innovad believes in science and innovation. We knowing that the poultry industry and the farming sector in Nigeria is faced with some challenges, we have stepped up to help farmers in some of those challenges. One is in Toxin Management. Toxin is a bigchallenge in Nigeria and worldwide. It cost farmers a lot because it predisposes animals to other diseases. What we have done is that we have equipment that can test toxins here in Nigeria within 15 minutes and we do this for farmers and customers without charging a kobo. All we need is for them to send samples to us, then we analyse and send them their results. The good part of this is that the result doesn’t take time. Even when they want to confirm the quality of grains they have received, while the truck is there if they can send samples to us on time we can run the analysis and give them result for them to take decision. We do this to support farmers because analysis here in Nigeria is a big challenge but Innovad has supported us with equipment to do that locally here.
We also send samples for more comprehensive analysis, for more investigation to Belgium. Innovad partners with University of Ghent. As you may know, the veterinary department of the university of Ghent is the first and the best worldwide. We have partnership with them and other universities, and other research institutes. That partnership have led to a unique method of finding toxins and analysing them not just in feeds or in raw materials but also in the blood of the animal. Innovad is the only company worldwide and there is a patent to this process to take the blood of the animal, just a drop and analyse and find out the true exposure of the animal to mycotoxins because what is been done before now is analysis of raw materials which is what I told you we do here and the feed analysis where the manufactured feed is taken for analysis but none of these methods will tell you to what extent the animal itself is exposed to that toxin after eating that because most toxin binders don’t even work when they are inside the feed. They work when they get into the animal’s system. It is possible that you can do analysis of a feed that contains toxin binder and you still see toxin there. It is not a judgement if the toxin binder is effective or not because the true test of the effectiveness of toxin binder is when the animal eats that feed how much of it is binded because the binding takes place inside the animal’s system.
We have come up with a unique method of finding and measuring the two exposures of toxins in the animal. And we also give this service free of charge. It is expensive but we give it free of charge. It gives the farmer first-hand information where they know that first; this is the true position of my birds today so that if you are applying products, maybe changing a toxin binder after a while you run that test again to know if there is improvement or not. We do this routinely for a lot of our customers who are farmers.
What this helps them to do is that even before the birds start manifesting clinical signs, through this they are able to detect the level of toxins these birds are exposed to and know what next to do.
Secondly, we believe in knowledge sharing. Innovad is in partnership with a lot of research institutes, we train our customers via online. Technical staffs are sent abroad for training to learn the current state of some challenges or how to mitigate against some challenges. Not just about our products, it is about what they want to learn that will improve their performance because we believe that when our customers are doing well, we will be doing well. We also bring in veterinary experts from around the globe to come to Nigeria, visit our farmers either to present training to them or to do farm audits in terms of different diseases and advice the farmers ahead of time if they are exposed to things or not.
We also look at their management because a lot of issues farmers face are also from their management in terms of the number of flocks per pen, the drinking water, the heat, the building and a lot of things.
Some of these topics do not bother on our own product portfolio but we just want to make sure that farmers are doing well. So these are the things we do in addition to the fact that we provide quality products at affordable prices. And I don’t think any company in Nigeria is doing as much as we aredoing.
FAD: As a person, kindly tell us what life has taught you in the number of years you have been around generally.
MR CHIDIEBERE: One thing I know life has taught me is to be consistent in doing good things. When you are doing the right thing, after a period of time you will be known for doing the right thing. That is one thing I know life has taught me.
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