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How imports, neglect stunt Nigeria’s diary sector

A woman milking a cow at Jabiri Funtua in Katsina State 2
A woman milking a cow at Jabiri Funtua in Katsina State 2

High dependence  of the Nigerian dairy sector on imported milk at the expense of locally available milk resources has resulted in the wastage, neglect and underdevelopment in the sector, experts at the just concluded  4th Global Dairy Congress Africa have said.

Most of the participants posited that for the nation’s underdeveloped diary sector to be saved and revamped, and be a forex earner for the country, swift actions must be taken by all stakeholders, especially the Federal Government to discourage the import of diary product of any form.

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They suggested that for optimal performance, the sector should be private sector-driven with government providing the guiding policy and giving incentives like zero duty on diary equipment import instead of the heavy duty on equipment and 5% on milk import.

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The prevailing scenario, according to some experts, is making it impossible for locally produced milk to compete with the imported ones.

At present, a litre of locally produced milk cannot sell for less than N300 to sustain production but the same litre of foreign milk is sold at N100.

This informs why many still patronise foreign milk at the expense of the local ones.

The two-day congress with theme, “Accelerating the Investment and Cooperation of Dairy in Africa’, held in Abuja with  about 15 countries and over 80 processors in attendance.

Speakers at the congress express belief that the country was spending too much to import dairy products to the detriment of local actors in the sector.

The Federal Government had told those at the congress that 60 percent of the country’s diary requirements are still being imported despite the countries huge cattle population.

The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Mohammed Umar, admitted that the country’s annual imports of milk and other dairy products is currently estimated at US$ 1.3 billion, adding that the country’s dairy requirement is largely met by 60% imports and 40% local production.

Represented by the ministry’s Head of Animal Husbandry Services, Dr. Bright Wategire, the perm-sec attributed the development to the subsistence nature of the country’s diary industry.

The congress is coming at the time Dangote Group is planning to invest $800 million in the country’s dairy production in the next three years.

According to a story recently in the Cable, Dangote plans to hold 50,000 cows and produce 500 million litres of milk before the year runs out.

Why over 20m Nigerian cattle can’t help –FG

The Director of Animal Husbandry Services, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Bright Wategire, has told stakeholders that the country has an estimated 20 million cows with about 100 million hectares of arable land; tremendous water resources; a sizable workforce; and the agro-climatic diversity to grow grains, pastures and raise livestock.

She said these are available for potential investors in the sector invest in.

The Director, however, said access to inputs and cows of proven genetic quality could not make the country benefit optimally from its large population of cows.

In his presentation, Alhaji MD Abubakar of L & Z Yoghurt in Kano, said Nigeria is the 14th in terms of global cattle population but regretted that the output from the cattle is considerably low, making it difficult for the country to harness enough of the milk and beef to feed the population.

He is of the belief that excessive dependence (about 95%) of the Nigerian dairy sector on imported milk at the expense of locally available milk resources has resulted in wastage, neglect, stunted growth and underdevelopment of the sector, especially indigenous dairy production and processing.

How to resuscitate diary sector –Experts

Alhaji MD Abubakar, Managing Director of the L&Z Yoghurt, has suggested that a 50 percent cut back in milk importation can be achieved within five years through a 15% Dairy Development Levy on powdered milk imports (in addition to the existing tariffs).

This, according to him, will include 100 percent duty on liquid milk and milk products which will discourage importation and accelerate backward integration.

His advice was contained in a paper titled ‘Policy Actions Suggestions for a Sustainable Livestock Industry in Nigeria’, delivered at the 4th Global Dairy Congress Africa.

He said revenue from the levy should be pooled into the Nigerian Dairy Development Fund (NDDF) to be warehoused by the Bank of Industry for on-lending to the dairy sector for its upgrade and growth projects

Alhaji Abubakar stressed the need to integrate the upstream, midstream and downstream lines of the sector for optimal performance.

According to him, the upstream policy actions should include but not limited to construction of  solar-powered water boreholes and watering troughs which, he said, would discourage roaming about of the cattle and encourage sedentary operations.

“Establish nucleus milk collection centres with cold chain transport, aggregation and bulking services, logistics support systems, veterinary, animal clinics, and core skills. Fodder crops, silage and feeds compounding businesses for cattle and other ruminants will develop around them,” he said.

He called for support of local production of feeds for cattle as well as agrochemical inputs and mechanization equipment (Bailers, haymakers, etc.)

According to him, ranches, grazing ranges, managed pastures, controlled grazing paddocks and feedlots in places where appropriate land exists will develop as businesses.

Alhaji Abubakar recommends  a 20-year Nigerian Dairy Development Programme (NDDP)  to be systematically funded and implemented from levy on milk, adding that a professional management committee should be set up to focus the NDDP funds on top priority strategic projects across the sector’s value chain for local operators.

According to the L&Z boss, the midstream should involve cold chain hygienic milk collection and aggregation, bulking, evacuation systems, logistics support systems and services (access roads, refrigerated transport, capacity building and skills improvement).

Experts in the sector believe that the milk importers, who import powdered milk and reconstitute it to evaporated and other forms, are doing more harms to the sector by not aiming at developing the midstream sub-sector.

‘’If they develop the cold chain to collect even the little amount that is produced locally, the sector would have seen a more rapid development,’’ one of the experts said.

The L&Z MD believes that if the local content policy is enforced, the so-called importers will source substantial quantity locally which  would lead to developing milk collection and delivery systems, thereby making the midstream robust.

‘’Their current 100 percent dependent on imports is what makes the midstream to remain moribund,’’ he said.

He advocated that the downstream line should include bulk powder milk production and processing plants for various products like milk, yoghurt, butter, cheese etc.

A livestock expert, Mr Dotun Ajakaiye, observed that livestock subsector is one of the areas that the government has neglected for over a long time, adding that the ways milk producing animals are being nurtured in Nigeria would make it difficult for the country to achieve much in the area of milk production.

“The average daily milk yield per cow is not encouraging compared with what is obtainable in other diary active countries and this is because of the ways these animals are nurtured.

“You see, we can’t continue deceiving ourselves. The cattle and other milk producing animals must be properly taken care of if they are to give you the best dairy products, no two ways about it. So in simple language, we must make sure we provide adequate facilities that will stop these animals from moving long distances in search of food and water daily,” he said.

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