Thursday, October 15, 2020 5:58PM / By Funsho Idowu, Proshare research / Header Image Credit: pexels
The recent shortfall in maize production in Nigeria has pushed policymakers to search for viable alternatives. Most of the grains produced locally are consumed in various commercial sectors. About 50% of the maize produced is used as animal feed, with the poultry industry claiming the bulk of the country's total feed production. Meanwhile, the global price of corn has seen a V-shaped recovery between January and September 2020(see chart 1 below).
However, Nigerian farmers have seen a swoosh in prices after the COVID-19 lockdown had eased with some stability being restored in the last four months at N1.600 per tonne. This was attributed to a floor put in place by collective farmer interests after the federal government placed a ban on corn importation in August 2020.
Chart 1: Global Corn Price January - September 2020
Source: Bloomberg, Proshare Research
Nevertheless, to head-off, a food crisis as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) granted import waivers to four agro-processing companies to import 262,000 tonnes of maize to bridge the shortfall in production and augment local production. Before the importation, the Federal Government through President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the release of 30,000 tonnes of maize from the National Strategic Grain Reserve to support the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) at a subsidized rate.
The volume of maize imported by the four companies was over half of the annual maize imports of 400,000 tonnes. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has estimated that Nigeria's maize production for 2020 would be about 11.1 million tonnes, saying that importers were expected to import 400,000 tonnes to plug the production shortfall. The imported maize is expected to help the poultry industry continue production before the next harvest season, which is in November 2020.
However, the quantity of imported maize is insufficient to meet the monthly requirement of the poultry industry. Moreover, the 262,000 tonnes of maize imported would not cut down the price of maize produced locally, as local supply gaps are expected to persist.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some poultry farmers have closed down their businesses. The pain of the stakeholders along the maize value chain will continue to linger as demand outstrips supply. Since the available maize in the country is insufficient for consumption in various sectors, poultry farmers may need to look elsewhere for redemption to resolve the challenge of the poultry feed sector.
From Waste to Peel Mash
Nigeria is the World's largest producer of Cassava, with a yearly output of more than 50 million tonnes (approximately 20% of global production). Although the colossal output has helped to alleviate hunger in the country, it has equally created enormous amounts of waste by-products - estimated at 15million tonnes a year.
Agronomists have pointed to the fact that the waste could be converted to energy-rich and qualitative animal feed through high-grade Cassava peel technology.
HCQP technology converts three tonnes of fresh peel into one tonne of animal feed. The 15 million tonnes of cassava peels wasted annually could be converted to 5 million tonnes of animal feed.
Asides from creating a valuable animal feed resource, the technology could help in improving farm incomes, employment and reduce environmental degradation.
The Insect Solution
Some agricultural economists have pointed to the use of insects as animal feed as a potential solution to improving the sustainability of animal diets. Some insects such as black soldier fly larvae, housefly maggot meal, mealworm, the silkworm are rich in crude protein which is an invaluable resource in the feed industry.
For example, in Uganda farmers are encouraged to rear and feed insects (primarily with rotten matters such as compost or manure). These insects lay a vast amount of eggs which in turn metamorphosis into a larva which is fed upon by the birds. These maggots help the chicken grow faster and larger.
Poultry farmers in Kenya also employ the same process, harvesting human feces for the consumption of the black soldier flies which produces a lot of worms and maggots rich in protein consumed by the birds. Consequently, doubling up their egg production.
These African farmers are showing that feeding insects to livestock are vital to feeding humanity.
Alternatives Worth Giving a Shot
Maize constitutes between 50% and 70% of chicken feed in the country, there is also a high demand for maize for human consumption. This has resulted in not only an unhealthy competition for the staple but also its scarcity has crippled the local poultry business.
With the scarcity of maize still looming, poultry farmers may need to look to its alternatives - Cassava peels and insect protein. Cassava peels are produced from waste and can be used to produce high-quality animal feeds. In the long term, it may take the pressure off maize as well as its importation, thereby alleviating the current challenges the poultry industry faces in supporting domestic food security.