The Director General/Chief Executive Officer, Feed Nigeria Summit Secretariat, Mr Richard-Mark Mbaram revealed that the Federal Government has put machinery in motion to introduce cassava as a strategic replacement for maize and soybeans, as part of efforts to address the high cost of livestock feed, occasioned by the soaring price of key components of feeds composition.
To achieve this, thousands of hectares are set to be acquired nationwide to grow cassava, to lessen the cost of inputs for livestock producers, in order to elevate their standard of living.
Mbaram, who disclosed the plan during a capacity building workshop of African Women in Animal Resources Farming and Agribusiness Network (AWARFA-N) in Abuja, noted that the costs of feed have surged to its highest, with supplies of maize and soya beans limited by weather conditions and insecurity challenges.
In the last two years, the poultry industry has been on the brink of total collapse due to the persistent hike in the price of maize
Poultry farmers have raised the alarm that the upward surge in the cost of maize is forcing their colleagues to shut down their operations nationwide, due to huge losses incurred on a daily basis.
However, the National President of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Sunday Ezeobiora, who appealed to the Federal Government to employ urgent intervention into the sub-sector, decried that the country is heading for a crash if the government fails to salvage the industry.
According to the FNS boss, the use of cassava as feed for ruminants and non-ruminants could reduce the high cost of feed, increase livestock production and create job opportunities. To this end, he said the government is partnering with the state government and farmers nationwide to grow more cassava to help minimise the economic impact from the surge in feed prices.
He announced that the Cross-River State Government has donated 100 hectares to support the government to grow the tuber crop, adding that more states have bought into the project and are allocating land.
Mbaram said steps have been taken to evaluate successful use of cassava-based feed resources, adding that the government wants to leverage the support of InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR)’s Resilient African Feed and Fodder Systems (RAFFS) Project in the drive to explore the multi-purpose use of cassava as feed, to improve income of women involved in the value chain and generate more employment, contributing in this way to poverty reduction.
According to him, the Federal Government is implementing an initiative targeting reduction of rural poverty among farmers and one of the expected outputs of the campaign is to better equip women beneficiaries to create agro-related livelihood activities linked to the cassava value chain.
RAFFS Project Officer, Dr. Sarah Ashanut Ossiya said AU-IBAR is determined to support women livestock farmers to explore cassava and other crops in its different forms, which have large potential to serve as animal feed.
She added that during the capacity building workshop of AWARFA- N, women in livestock production have shared their experience of being constrained by lack of good quality feed, adding that the availability of alternative sources of feed such as cassava would be very important.
Although cassava is touted as a substitute of maize, she indicated that livestock producers have not yet exploited its potential to the fullest.
Chairperson, AWARFA- N, Dr Chinyere Ikechukwu-Eneh, stressed that involving more women in cassava production was a bold step on the path of prosperity.
According to her, the ultimate aim of AWARFA-N is to reach a greater number of women and provide entrepreneurship opportunities for them.
Moving forward, she said the organisation will prioritise a comprehensive approach toward removing the barriers to women’s participation in the agribusiness.
In Nigeria, the key ingredients for producing feed for non-ruminant animals raised in intensive production are maize and soybeans. Though maize farmers produce 20 million metric tonnes of maize yearly, this figure falls short of the yearly requirement of 30 million metric tonnes that has left a huge deficit gap.