By Joe Iniodu
With oil prices swirling in downward slide and production quota reeling to a paltry 700,000 barrels arising from militant activities in the Niger Delta, the need to diversify the economy cannot be more urgent that now. For many states, the question is diversifying to what? The answer can only be proffered by a leader with vision for a time like this.
It is easy to mouth the platitudes of diversification but difficult to identify areas and approaches for maximum and trickling down effects. It is also difficult to evolve, harness and bring to bear a process that is expansive enough to engage the broad masses of the people that occupy the lower rung of the social ladder. It is in this perspective that the Government of Akwa Ibom Stae has proven that it is with its thinking cap and that great leaders are store houses of novel ideas.
The Akwa Prime Hatchery at Mbiaya Uruan is one such project with domino effect. The beauty of the project is that it has consequential spread to the grassroots in terms of engagement, capacity building, wealth creation with equally beneficial effect to the elites’ bracket thus creating a nexus with attendant value chain.
The conception of this Prime Hatchery at Mbiaya Uruan is a well thought through project that would at full operations not only distinguish itself as a flagship project, it would be a project with the broadest human participation and reach embarked upon by individual or institution. At full operations, the hatchery would have a breeder, feed mill plant, dryer, silos or storage facilities, cold room, process plants and sundry other plants that are connected to modern service delivery in poultry needs. When all of these are in place, the hatchery would have a dominant place in the state economic matrix especially as it pertains to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is why the Udom administration’s approach to the manner the hatchery is being run is less commerce-oriented but more of capacity building and wealth creation driven. It is an attempt to give the people a vocation that would empower and predispose them to meet both their needs and that of their families.
The hatchery is designed to provide day old chicks to farmers who rear them into birds for either consumption or as layers. Prime Hatchery at Mbiaya Uruan, the first in the South-South region is expected to meet the daily chicks’ needs of poultry farmers in the South-South and South-East regions. As at now, all the daily chicks’ needs of the people of these regions are from the South-West. These daily chicks are brought from distances like Ogun, Oyo, Osun or Ekiti States with the attendant risk of death or weakness that may result in fragile health even at the time of maturity. Of course, there are incidental costs like huge cost of transportation and veterinary services thus making the participation of the people of these regions in poultry business very cumbersome and not cost effective. The hatchery facilitated by the State Government is an appropriate intervention that would mitigate the untoward losses and high cost that are foisted on the farmers by distance to the source of the day old chicks in addition to other sundry costs.
The intriguing thing about the hatchery is the expanded value chain that it possesses. The said value chain can accommodate a broad spectrum of participants with every person engaged in meaningful, viable and economically rewarding activity. There is also the peculiarity of penetration implying that the thrust of activities are indeed with the people especially the rural dwellers. It is a programme that can radiate across the whole state with collateral gains to participants.
Let us hazard some analysis on the value chain of this productive enterprise and illustrate the broad participation it encapsulates. Poultry farms depend on feed mills. Feed is an amalgam of sundry components with maize being the most dominant. In every 30,000 tonnes of feed, 21,000 tonnes are maize constituents. A ton of maize today sells for N140,000.00. It therefore means that for every 30,000 tonnes of feeds, there is a maize component of 21,000 tonnes. If one multiplies N140,000 by 21,000 tonnes, one sees the monetary value that is carted out of the state with every purchase of 30,000 tonnes of feeds. Sadly, we do not have feed mills in our State and so depend almost totally in bringing feeds from outside our State
The economic reality here is that maize is a common farm crop planted by every family in this state. If our people become involved in large scale maize production and the feed mills serve as off-takers to the farmers by buying their produce for their manufacturing plants, the money which goes into capital flight through the purchase of feeds from outside the state would be retained within our economy to improve the GDP of the State. This is the economic reality.
But the maize aspect is only a part of the value chain. The value chain also accommodates fishermen as the discarded fishes and other non-consumable parts of the fishes are ground and added as part of the feeds. And so the fishermen would create wealth as those waste products would be sold in kilos to feed manufacturers. Abattoirs are not left out of this chain matrix as the bones, the horns of the animals killed and the blood are also components of the feeds. By-products of sea foods also form part of this chain as shells from those sea foods are made into granulated form as the animal bones and horns and mixed with maize to have the feeds. It could be observed that in feed manufacturing alone, the chain has the farmer of maize crop, the owners of dryers and silos, the fishermen, the men from the abattoir and others either playing integral or fringe roles that all culminate in wealth creation.
Interestingly, the State Government under His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel has shown deep passion for the hatchery project. He strongly believes that the project can be used to address the looming spectre of poverty that is ravaging our nation and that if the tools are effectively deployed, poverty alleviation would be a success story. And so in recognition of the peculiar challenges confronting target beneficiaries which include lack of access to capital and knowledge, Government has introduced measures that would combine to surmount the teething problems. The intention is to remove the hurdles that could impede the target beneficiaries from maximizing this opportunity and engaging in economically rewarding venture at minimal cost. Government does not want the entry cost into the programme to be the impediment. Rather, it seems to wish to galvanize targets into consuming passion knowing that that would drive the dream
The management of the hatchery has already established OUTGROWER SCHEME or CONTRACT FARMING SCHEME. In this scheme, the management would provide all the inputs ranging from training programme, provision of the day old chicks, provision of feeds, provision of extension services, etc but with little commitment from the beneficiary to affirm seriousness. The beneficiary would run the farm and on the due date of eight weeks which would have been stipulated, management would off-take the birds from the contract farmer and pay him what he is entitled to earn. The beauty in this process is that he can project what would accrue to him and would access same in one swoop to enable him or her plan. Currently, many people are registering and keying into the programme. Management is also funneling them into some kind of co-operatives classified into Senatorial Districts. It is a programme that is imbued with poverty alleviation mechanism and is connected directly to the people.
Holistically, the Prime Hatchery at Mbiaya Uruan should be seen as a flagship project if placed on the trajectories of reach and penetration. Its multiplier benefits are enormous and engaging range almost unprecedented. When one reviews all the phases isolated and adds other multilateral areas like processing and storage, one sees layers of rewarding engagements. An area like marketing of the product bearing in mind that these processed products are without any preservative is a virgin sphere that would give employment to our youths. Currently, the hatchery has an order of 75,000 birds a week with more orders still trickling in daily. Akwa Ibom people should take advantage of this goldmine that a visionary Government has espoused to put food on the table of its people as well upscale their living standard.
Joe Iniodu is a public affairs analyst