Sabo Nanono, Nigeria’s Minister of agriculture and rural development has confirmed that plans are underway to ban milk importation by 2022. The minister made the disclosure during the commemoration of the 2020 World Food Day in Abuja on Wednesday, October 14.
According to Nanono, Nigeria has the capacity to meet the required milk production to sustain the populace and the government is making efforts to ensure the ban is carried out as planned. The minister stressed that the country has 25 million cows with a capacity to produce five million litres of milk per day.
“I see no reason why we should import milk in the next two years. We should stop the importation of milk,” he added. He indicated logistics as the challenge presently affecting milk production in the country and concluded that the government is setting up milk processing plants across the country to control the situation.
Prior to the minister’s declaration, Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had in 2019 bemoaned the spate of finished and raw milk importation, which he stated cost the country between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion annually. According to him, an importation ban on milk and other dairy products would serve as a panacea to boost local production and increase the country’s investment in its ranches.
Limits in dairy production/value chain development
The proposed policy not only appears to be a feasible goal if properly planned before implementation, it also complements the government’s efforts towards self-sustenance in the agricultural sector.
However, research analysis and opinions by nutritionists and other experts suggest otherwise. According to a 2018 world cattle inventory report by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (UNFAO), Nigeria had a cattle population of 20 million, accounting for 1.36 per cent of the global total and making it the fourth-largest cattle population in Africa after Ethiopia, Sudan and Tanzania.
The international organisation noted that of the country’s total herd, 11.5 per cent is used for dairy, while 88.5 per cent is consumed as meat. The report noted that unlike other countries that practice ranching where cattle herds are raised on large tracts of land, most Nigerian cattle rearers practice the traditional nomadic system where cattle are moved across different areas in search of pasture. This doesn’t project the Nigerian cattle breeding in a positive light as studies show that milk output of nomadic cattle is usually lower than that of cattle managed in specially built units where feeding is controlled.
A 2019 report by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture national dairy output per annum is 700,000 metric tonnes, while the national demand is put at 1.3 million metric tonnes annually, leaving a gap of 600,000MT, an indication that the country’s dairy consumption far outweighs its production. Asoko Insight, an African market intelligence and corporate data provider noted that local milk processing in Nigeria is done on a very small scale in which milk gotten from the cattle is used in the production of the local milk known as ‘nunu’, and local cheese, popularly known as ‘wara’ by the local indigenes.
However, to produce milk on a commercial scale, a large percentage of milk inputs used by commercial processors is imported due to the limited portion gotten from the pastoralists. Further analysis shows that Nigeria’s dairy processors import milk powder and reconstitute it into liquid milk and other dairy products such as yoghurt, ice cream and confectioneries. These dairy products are imported from New Zealand, Australia, South America, the EU, India, Ukraine, Poland, and other smaller suppliers.
Multinational firms such as Frieslandfoods (Netherlands), Glanbia (Ireland), have either partnered or acquired some indigenous dairy firms for reconstituting and packaging imported milk powder further stifling the indigenous production companies from making an impactful headway in the dairy industry.
Muhammadu Abubakar, managing director, L&Z Integrated Farms, Kano thinks Nigeria is not yet prepared enough to actualise selfsustenance. He noted that milk production in Nigeria is more expensive than imported milk.
Ben Langat, managing director of dairy producer, FrieslandCampina WAMCO noted that the unorthodox fresh milk collection by local cattle breeders, lack of infrastructure and modern dairy farming, and absence of enabling policies are contributory factors to the unpleasant situation in the dairy sector.
Sahel Consulting Agriculture and Nutrition Limited, a leading African agriculture platform in its assertion on the Nigerian dairy industry stated that every dairy company in the country relies on imported powdered milk. It concluded that the domestic production of milk continues to be impeded by low milk yields of local cattle, animal health challenges, low levels of cattle nutrition, poor management, crude husbandry practices, and low utilization of improved livestock technologies.
Unlocking possibilities of sustainable milk production industry
A research journal article titled, “Major Issues in Nigeria Dairy Value Chain Development’, authored by a group of researchers from the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services, Ahmadu Bello University, proffered some recommendations capable of bolstering the Nigerian milk and dairy production sector.
The study stressed on the need for urgent government intervention in the dairy industry to ensure proper post-harvest handling and marketing. It further stated that increasing the national dairy production with value added processing would contribute significantly to reducing the rising costs of dairy imports, which would in turn provide income sources to domestic dairy farmers and all those involved in the dairy value chain.
The study also indicated distributed database technology as having a significant impact on rural dairy data management in the upcoming years because distributed database systems have many potential advantages over centralized systems, especially for geographically distributed projects. It also suggested that the Nigerian Livestock Development Programme (NLDP) and other indigenous stakeholders work closely with the Dairy Records Management System (DRMS) to develop modalities for setting up dairy data service centres in Nigeria.
In addition to the grazing reserve models and other traditional pastoral development models in Nigeria, the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) identified some farm characterisation that should be promoted in Nigeria to foster milk production. This will require collecting data on the milk production, goals, feeding system and production constraints and identifying cattle breeding strategies, which will require the services of several experts to achieve.
Ben Langat suggested access to finance and credit facilities, access to land for pasture as a positive step towards the self-sustenance goal. He also recommended improved research in veterinary services and animal nutrition as well as technologies for harnessing dairy farming. Education and enlightenment of smallholder farmers on the necessity of establishing ranches is another area Langat recommended as a viable action towards enhancing self-sufficiency