The Olofa of Offa, in Kwara State, Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi Okikiola, Esuwoye II, is a poultry farmer, in this interview, he speaks on the challenges presently facing the sector.
You are a king, and also a poultry farmer, what led you into it?
From year 2002, before I became Olofa, I woke up one day and I said I cannot continue as a rice distributor and I was number one in Lagos in terms of rice, sugar distribution throughout till 2010 but I felt the stress will be too much for me after 50 years. One day, I was talking to one of my friends, an importer of rice, who is an American that I needed to diversify my business and he advised me to go into poultry farming and promised to join hands with me. He did his calculation and showed me the profit from it but it never worked like that.
I had a land in Ikorodu which I showed him and he said I should start working on the land that he was going to US to bring money and equipment but never showed up but I started work on it and I have spent about N300 million on the land. I cannot stop it and by 2004 the birds had started laying. I called some local doctors and one foreign doctor to work on the farm. Today, it is the biggest poultry in Lagos State.
My plan of leaving the market when I turned 50 was changed by God. With the poultry in place, I left the market when I was 47years old. God has really guided me because if I hadnít left rice business, only God knows what would have happened now that the market has fallen.
What is your assessment various agric policies?
Whatever agric policy that can help us has been shouted on all this while and nothing has been dyone. About 70 percent of poultry farms in Nigeria today have folded up because maize now is about N130,000 per ton and anything above N50,000 per ton of maize is running at loss. As maize price goes up, prices of other ingredients also increased. If the government can assist us on the price of maize, a lot of poultry farmers will go back to business. Even in my farm, I have staff strength of 1800 and I am producing at 50 percent, I am planning to lay off some staff. It is the Governor of Kwara State that is encouraging me not to lay off my staff; that things will get better.
What specific policy would you recommend for government that will help poultry farming in Nigeria?
Government is just saying we should go back to the farm without any farm implement. Before now, in every village you will see tractors, bulldozers, fertilisers, insecticides and other things but now you cannot see those things even at ministries of agric. How do we go back to farm without those implements that we will use to cultivate what will be enough for our local consumption and export. Nothing is being given to farmers and to get loan from banks, one has to present his or her dead grandfather to get the money.
What do you think government can do to get the country out of the current situation?
All the things I have said earlier do not apply to poultry farmers. What they will benefit from is to get our farmers to go and grow and make them available to poultry farmers. It is one thing to tell us to go back to the farm but I hope they help us with implements that we will go and work with in the farm. Even the rice farming, only rich people can delve into it, the poor cannot dare it. There is no assistance from government.