The Oyo State chapter of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) has made a passionate plea to Governor, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State for a special consideration during the impending lockdown and restriction of movement in an effort to control the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic within the state. The poultry farmers, who sought to be included in the list of those to be considered as rendering essential services during the lockdown period on the state government’s directives, argued that the nature of their business warrants such an inclusion.
Coronavirus infection, which has caused thousands of deaths in China, Spain, Italy and hundreds of deaths in the US and some other parts of the world was recently reported in Nigeria. The rate of spread, its pattern of infections and mortalities are reasons for government’s lockdown instructions, seen as one of the most effective ways to reduce and slow down its spread within the country. Under such directives, some essential services workers such as health professionals, the police, military officials, electricity workers and journalists are among those designated as essential services workers who are free to move about without restriction during the lockdown.
The Oyo State poultry farmers wrote against the backdrop of the peculiarities of poultry as live animals that need daily care in terms of feeding, health care, environmental hygiene and waste disposal. Inadequate or inconsistent care for the poultry birds could result in mortalities, which could in turn lead to huge losses for the farmers and shortage of poultry meat for the consumers. For egg producers, the task of daily collection is regarded as essential part that shouldn’t be compromised if their business is not to suffer setback as a result of wastage and damages to eggs and consequential losses.
They also raised alarm about the safety and security of their members on the farms, saying four of their members were kidnapped recently in the course of going about their farm business. They argued that they need protection so that they could ply their trade without threat to their safety and lives. Accordingly, they pleaded with the governor to consider providing a waiver or special consideration to allow them free movement to and from their farms during the lockdown period so their birds could be well cared for. Their farm inputs and outputs would therefore be well handled.
Dr. Olukayode Oyeleye, policy analyst and agribusiness consultant, who spoke to business a.m., said that the “voice of these poultry farmers must be heard,” adding that, “considering the aftermath of the lockdown, a special consideration for them will ensure that the consuming public would have stable supply of eggs and poultry meat later in the year and farmers would remain in business. Approving their request should not be regarded as undeserved privilege, but rather a necessity. Denying them could affect food and nutrition security outlook of Nigeria later in the year and could discourage investments in this critical area of our economy. It could also affect the revenue stream from the private sector.”
According to Dr. Oyeleye, Oyo state is easily a big poultry hub in Nigeria, with businesses involving production of day old chicks, layers, broilers, feed milling, employing hundreds of thousands of workers, creating business for input suppliers, such as maize and soybeans and egg retailers. Any upset to the industry will easily upset the food balance sheet of the country. The exception sought by the Oyo State poultry farmers should be granted to poultry farmers elsewhere all over Nigeria as part of the government strategy towards ensuring stable supply of food to the teeming masses of consumers.