Livestock sector needs govt support’, Chief Executive of NIAS says
As an agency of the Federal Government, we are working to increase agricultural productivity in the country’s agro-ecological zones. We are promoting the adoption of climate-relevant innovations in livestock production systems and improving primary health care of animals at the farm and post farm levels.
Our institute’s goal is to regulate the livestock industry to ensure a sustainable and profitable business environment for the operators in accordance with good agricultural practices.
In alliance with other government and private sector partners, we are seeking to help smallholder dairy farmers to advance their sustainable farming practices and to ease the shortage of dairy products and reduce the huge import bill for dairy products, which stands at $1.5 billion yearly.
The institute has held meetings with groups of private-sector, non-profit and research organisations to increase the supply of nutritional dairy products and other animal source foods available to local communities.
The institute has also been guiding smallholder farmers in methods that would bolster their production of nutrient-rich forages for their dairy and beef cattle and small ruminants, which should in turn raise their milk and meat yields while reducing their production costs.
We have focused on how technological, economic and financial innovations can accelerate livestock’s contribution to ending hunger and contributing to other United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Despite concerns about livestock’s negative contributions to greenhouse gases and dietary risks, demand for livestock in Nigeria and the rest of the developing world will continue to grow rapidly. Already, we have seen that consumption of beef, pork, milk and chicken has grown across the country, driven by urbanisation, rising income and the growing population.
As an institute, we are committed to seeing that livestock play a critical role in alleviating hunger and malnutrition. The institute has been in the forefront of the campaign that animal-source foods (ASFs) remain a critical source of indispensable nutrients.
More research is needed into better feeds, breeds and health, and we are determined to ensure we use appropriate technologies to enhance the contribution of livestock to food and nutrition security.
We believe what will revamp the livestock industry is a determined effort to improve local Research and Development (R & D) capabilities and livestock management practices. Through a combination of private-sector investment, local expertise, applied data and technologies, the institute intends to contribute to raising our livestock productivity and enhance product delivery.
What are the achievements of the institute?
The institute has been able to galvanise the interest of operators in the livestock value chains in embracing practices that will ensure that our animal source protein foods are safe and of high quality. Specifically, we have been able to come up with gazetted regulations for feed milling, poultry breeder farms, hatchery, day-old chick marketing and Animal Science Practice. We have also been able to work with sister agencies who are involved in the livestock industry to build a holistic approach and synergy for efficient service delivery by the operators in the industry.
What R&D is on ground to support the vision of doubling the value of red meat industry?
Innovation platforms in the areas of breed improvement for improved milk production are currently being worked on. Also, the development of pasture varieties is engaging the attention of experts in the institute.The response to climate change for adaptive performance of our livestock is also an area of interest for R&D.
Tell us about your goal for the Nigerian red meat and livestock industry to be recognised as the world-leader in animal health, welfare, biosecurity and production practices.
Our goal is to have a livestock industry that will respond to the changing population and shifting consumer pattern and preferences. In this regard, our animals must be produced under humane and healthy conditions.
In what ways are you supporting the livestock industry to build and implement feedlots in the sustainability of the industry?
We are providing technical assistance in the operation of feedlots for those already set up. We also provide technical expertise to those intending to set up feedlots. Since feedlot has to do with ensuring optimal weight gain of the animal within a short period of time, the formulation and delivery of the feed to the animal is very important. Also, planning to ensure that feed supply is sustained from when the animals come into the lot to when they grow out is very important. Feedlot is like an assembly line…you start it, you have to finish it well.
A major priority of the government and the private sector is to increase the quality of red meat and its production methods. Tell us about this project and how it came about?
We engage in stakeholders’ awareness a lot to educate both the producers and consumers. Producers must adhere to standard operating procedure which is operator specific. The consumers have the right to know what they are consuming. The thread that ties both is traceability. All products must be traced to their sources of production and the methods of production
How are promoting Nigerian beef domestically and internationally?
We promote Nigerian beef by helping producers with information that can lead to scale up in their businesses and therefore more meat for the country. We insist on compliance with regulatory guidelines to ensure safe products that can meet international standards for export
We have seen the rise of E. coli and other animal diseases. Have you made advancement and safety technologies to the assurance that livestock products are disease free?
Diseases are emerging and re-emerging in our livestock industry. While it is a herculean task to achieve 100 percent disease-free environment, incidences like E.coli, listerosis, etc can be reduced to very safe levels. The aspect of handling and meat hygiene is also engaging the attention of the institute and other sister agencies.
Do you have the mandatory recall authority? Would you say the government has provided the minimal protection that consumers deserve?
This is a problematic area at the moment. The meat we consume is informally prepared and delivered. We still have challenges with our abattoir and slaughter slabs. A lot will have to be done to regulate the activities here to ensure that products are handled and packaged safely. In addition, there should be a traceability policy. It is only when these measures are in place that the government can be effective in recalling products. The institute is developing a regulation on this.
Stakeholders spends a lot of money promoting beef as a wholesome product. Why is it so important to you?
It is because the beef is supposed to be a wholesome product. There is the need to continue to engage consumers on this because our average protein intake in the country is still very low.
More than a year after the global pandemic, how would you say the chick, piglet and calf sectors are faring?
The livestock sector as a whole took a huge bashing by the pandemic. The effect was much and the scars are still there. Some farms, especially poultry farms, folded up. Others were on the brink of collapse. Currently, the sector is trying to stabilise and move on.
Some scientists are building synthetic versions of meat. Do you see them as competitors?
Synthetic meat or non-animal meat is not a strong competitor. The world population, which is about 7.7 billion, will grow up to about 10 billion in 2050, which is less than 30 years. Perhaps, then, it can be a strong alternative to animal meat.
What were the main concerns/market challenges on the minds of stakeholders?
Anything new is resisted. Non-animal meat is viewed by consumers and other stakeholders as something not natural. Others believe its consumption has health implications.
What are the main future market opportunities for livestock and the industry in general?
The main future market opportunities for livestock are various. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) has opened up new opportunities for producers. The Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) sub-region is also there and if we produce according to prescribed standards, we have the global market space to sell our products
Have states adopted livestock component in agriculture? What are the merits and challenges?
Some states are doing well while others are still trying to advance their plans. The African Development Bank (AfDB) is ready to partner states on their special agro processing zone programme. A few states are already building such partnership. The World Bank Livestock Productivity and Resilience Project is also one that states are keying into. Then the National Livestock Transformation Plan of the Federal Government is assisting states to transform some grazing reserves to ranches. According to the Federal Govermment, about 30 states are earmarked for this project
How can your institute support the adoption of a pragmatic livestock development plan?
The institute is already helping to operationalise some pragmatic programmes that will move our livestock industry forward. In addition to all I have mentioned, the institute is working with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in the development of a breeding and dairy policy. We work with the Poultry Association of Nigeria and other specie associations. The goal is to have development plans that are broad-based and inclusive.
What are the emerging needs for the livestock industry and also adoption of favourable policies?
The livestock industry needs support from government. The sector needs input support that can lead to price stabilisation and business growth. In formulating and adopting policies, stakeholders must be involved and carried along.