As egg becomes gold…

Life in Nigeria has become awfully challenging, as residents go through hell to get the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, writes ONYEKORMAKA ASABOR 

The economic situation today is such that Nigerians are groaning under rising prices of food, including eggs. With N30,000 (about $50) minimum wage, many workers can hardly afford a crate of the protein-rich food weekly.

According to Financial Street checks across markets, the price of a branded crate of eggs in most supermarkets is between N2,400 and N2,800, while an unbranded crate of 30 eggs goes for between N2,200 and N2,500. This also applies at the retail level on the streets of Lagos, where one egg is sold at between N80 and N100. Given the foregoing, a worker that captures the purchase of eggs in their family’s feeding budget needs not less than N10,000 to sustain the menu for one month. 


Poultry farmers at loss?

Despite the high cost of egg, the Poultry Association of Nigeria laments that its members are selling at a loss, saying with the cost of services, egg should be sold at N2,500 per crate.

“Egg, at the moment, is still undervalued, considering the cost of production vis-à-vis the prices of maize, soya and other ingredients that are completely imported into the country. When you put together all the factors of production, ranging from sourcing of raw materials, importation, access to finance and loans taken from banks with the high interest rate, you will see that price of egg at the rate its being sold now is undervalued.

“With all the inputs from farmers and considering other charges like the power bill, labour, water bills, security etc, a crate of egg should not be sold less than N2500. The price of items in the market has gone up 400 per cent over the last few months.”

It is said when the current price is compared with how much it was sold in the past, there is the need for Nigerians to cry out. Currently, most of the poultry farmers are running at a loss; hence, most small-scale poultry farmers have stopped operations. The price of egg is not in isolation of other materials. To save cost, many poultry farmers preferred to sell their layers after few weeks because they would run at a loss, if they were left until they start laying.


Golden eggs

Analysed from the above prism, it is obvious that eggs have become ‘gold’ in recent times. Unarguably sounding funny, Mrs Gladys Imarhiagbe, a housewife in Mowe, Ogun State, said, “Sometimes, when I visit an eggs store stocked fresh from farms and ask of their prices after appreciating their various sizes, I am always tempted to ask, ‘Did they operate on these chickens?’”

Just as it is interesting to know that eggs are picked from the cages of special species of hens called layers, which produce eggs, it is paradoxical that Nigeria, which is highly rated in egg production in Africa, is experiencing steady hike in the prices of eggs in recent years.

Given that not few Nigerians are into poultry farming on a commercial scale, it won’t be a misnomer to say that the prevailing increase in the price of egg in the country has defied the law of demand and supply. According to statistics provided in 2020, about 21 billion eggs are produced in Nigeria yearly, making it the largest producer of chicken eggs in Africa.

It added, “However, compared to other countries, Nigeria’s chicken egg consumption is 60 eggs yearly per capita, compared to 250 eggs in advanced countries. There is a viable market in the eggs industry.”

Then, given the foregoing there is the need to ask, why are the prices of eggs of different sizes fast soaring and going out of reach across markets? 


Why the high price?

As Financial Street gathered, this is expected to get worse this year, as rising energy cost escalates price crisis. According PAN, cost of animal feeds, following inadequate production of basic ingredients such as maize and soya, and the high cost of minerals and vitamins used in poultry production, are accountable for the high prices of egg and chicken.

High cost of day-old chicks, insecurity and harsh operating environment characterised by abnormal taxes, transportation difficulties and unscrupulous activities of middlemen are not blameless.

President of PAN, Ibrahim Mam, explained that poultry farmers were becoming helpless in the face of too many challenges; hence, they resort to price adjustments, as the cost of production skyrockets.

In the same vein, the Provost, Federal College of Animal Health and Production Technology, Moor Plantation, Ibadan, Dr Olatunde Owosibo, described egg as an important part of human diet because it contains essential amino acids in the right proportion, adding, “It is still the cheapest source of protein considering the nutritional profile.”

According to him, an increase in the price of egg calls for concern, as it might also go out of reach for the common man.

“The reasons for the increase in the cost of eggs are not far-fetched. The astronomic increase in prices of basic ingredients (of animal feeds) is responsible. The cost of maize, soya meal, groundnut cake and other ingredients are much responsible. Farmers are seriously lamenting and suffering because they cannot pass the huge cost of production to consumers,” Owosibo noted.

At the moment, he said, there is high competition between man and his livestock over basic feeds ingredients, adding that intensive research had been ongoing over the years to see viable alternatives to the crops. He disclosed that some success had been recorded, but most substitutes are not available in commercial quantity, but could only sustain ‘backyard’ poultry.

Other factors responsible for the high cost of feeds include banditry and kidnapping, which, he said, cause low production and increase in prices of grains.

Also, Head of Department, Agribusiness Management, FCAP&PT, Dr Ibrahim Abdul-Ganiyu, said the high cost of feeds, labour, fuel and drugs is among the factors that reduce the production rate.

He added that the price of day-old birds to replace the old stock is on the high side. The prices of point-of-lay birds increased tremendously and purchasing power of the naira is weak, forcing many farmers out of the business.

His words: “The solution revolves mainly around the high cost of feeds because that alone takes 60 to 65 per cent of production cost.”

The challenges could cripple the sub-sector, and millions of Nigerians engaged in associated value chains, including toll milling, could lose their means of livelihood if the obstacles are not removed.

Recently, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Muhammed Abubakar, disclosed, “Nigeria is the largest egg-producer and has the second-largest chicken population in Africa, with about 180 million birds raised yearly.” 

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