Standards, power challenges face egg powder as solution to glut
With about 65 million layer eggs commercially raised and less than 40 million eggs produced daily in the country, poultry farmers should sell their eggs effortlessly, considering Nigeria is populated with over 200 million people now. But it is not so. They have difficulties selling their products, especially eggs, year after year. Some specialists, farmers and the Poultry Association of Nigeria have adduced reasons such as low average daily consumption of eggs, high poverty level, misconceptions about egg consumption by a category of the population, marketing failure and inability to industrialise eggs as factors responsible for the difficulties.
However, of more importance to the industrial space is the conversion of excessive eggs to industrial products that have elongated lifespans and that could be exported by value addition.
Fresh eggs are ordinarily perishable agricultural products, with a lifespan of about one month if store in dry and cool places. This perishability puts farmers in a very difficult situation if demand is affected. Large-scale egg producers are more affected when the supply is more than demand. This creates cash flow challenges and difficulty in running the farms well.
Conversion of fresh eggs to powder is a very good solution to perishability of eggs and gluts worldwide because industrial utilization of the products. For example, confectionary companies in Nigeria spend about N1 billion on importation of egg powder into Nigeria yearly. However, this solution is also prevented by a number of factors.
Challenges of egg farmers in Nigeria
Prince Adetoyi Olabode, the current National Vice-President (Southwest) of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), said despite over 200 million people in Nigeria, with nothing more than 65 million layer hens, an average egg consumption yearly is 35 eggs per person. Meanwhile in other countries like the United States, it is as high as 300.
Cases of egg gluts are also attributed to high level of insecurity in the country, which prevents transportation from production hubs to places where eggs are in high demand. Kidnapping, terrorism in the north east zone, banditry and clashes associated with herders and farmers have escalated insecurity in Nigeria, preventing even distribution of the products. He added that cross-border sales of eggs are also affected by insecurity.
Olabode said: “So, the egg glut of this year is a result of insecurity, most especially at the north-east zone. And why we are bearing the brunt now is because Boko Haram attacks and other insecurity challenges prevent traders from taking eggs to affected north eastern zone, Republic of Niger, Mali and Central African Republic. As a result of this, there is no possible way to move eggs across these borders.”
He advocated data gathering and analysis of the poultry industry so that the real capacity could be ascertained. “Most of the figures we parade have to be confirmed,” he said. “We have to be sure of the total eggs produced, the actual number of farmers and production capacity. From, there, we can determine if the glut we encounter every year is either artificial or not.”
From his own perspective of the industry challenges, Chief Folorunsho Ogunnaike, a poultry veteran and founder of Full-Hope Farms, Ibadan, saw the main challenge of egg farmers as unregulated production quantity. He argued that a rational producer should produce the number of eggs consumers are ready to buy per time based on demand figures. Producing without a ready market, he added, would always lead to crises.
He said: “The fact remains that we should not produce eggs more than people require. Requirement here denotes that we should produce only the quantity that people are ready to buy. When demand is more than supply, it is okay. But in a situation whereby supply is greater than demand, farmers will find it difficult.”
He attributed low consumption of eggs in Nigeria to poor disposable incomes, mass poverty and developmental failure as a result of poor political leadership.
“People will say we are not producing enough eggs, but how many people can afford eggs in a day. We have poverty here and there. Many people are even begging to eat. So, the solution is that we should produce the quantity that the nation still requires.”
Smuggling and higher cost of production
Uncompetitive production, as a result of high cost of inputs, makes the smuggling of cheaper poultry products attractive to economic saboteurs.
For instance, in the international market, maize is just N40,000 per metric tonne, whereas, the price ranges between N90,000 and N120,000 in Nigeria. A tonne of soya beans is about N50,000 in the international market, while it costs about N100,000 to N130,000 in the country.
Maize and soya beans are critical feeds materials, and their uncompetitive prices increase the cost of production.
To resolve the challenge, Prince Olabode suggested that the government should do what it does in rice production sub-sector.
“Let them do the same for soya and maize. Once the cost of maize and soya is lower, you will see the prices of eggs and chickens will come down, and you and I will be able to eat eggs daily. Average egg consumption, put at 35 yearly now per person now, will now increase to about 300,” he said.
Ogunnaike also supported the view that smuggling could become unattractive if the enabling environment is there, suggesting that the government should facilitate investments into soya bean and maize production.
Egg powder production and its challenges in Nigeria
Egg powder production is an industrial activity that needs regulatory standard compliance, adequate power supply, stable and wholesome raw materials (fresh eggs), dependable buyers or off-takers and deliberate policy shift to implementation of import substitution.
The process of egg powder production includes supply of eggs that are from of infections, antibiotic deposits and heat deterioration. Without these conditions, the end product (egg powder) cannot pass the minimum international standardisation tests.
Egg powder production requires huge financial outlays on processing equipment, factory construction, independent power projects especially in Nigeria, regulatory requirements, employment of specialists, development of contract production of raw materials or out-grower schemes and a well-equipped laboratory, among others.
However, agricultural financing in Nigeria is still at the rudimentary stage, and farmers find it difficult securing long-term financing from both private and government financial institutions.
Prince Olabode, however, suggested that coming together of poultry farmers under the association could resolve financial challenges, saying, “If investors can come together, it is a good business opportunity and if the government is looking for investors in the area of poultry production, I think along the line. The government should give an enabling environment for egg powder companies because the country is importing more than N1 billion worth of egg powder in a year.”
He argued that this would increase the capacity of farmers and stimulate more investments in egg production, adding that “they should encourage companies that are importing the egg powder to patronise the local farmer.”
Regulatory standard compliance
To produce egg powder, there are strict regulatory minimum standards set by the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), among others.
Some specialists said other challenges are secondary. The primary difficulty, they explained, is supplying wholesome eggs required for egg powder production.
There are established Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) for pharmacologically active substances such as antibiotics, vaccines and other veterinary mixtures, many of which are normally used in poultry production. Some of these substances have withdrawal period instruction, which denotes that for some days after the administration of such drug or vaccines, eggs produced from them are not meant to be eaten.
Mr Tope Oyadeyi, National Sales Manager, Eggs (Layers) Business Unit, BD Agriculture Nigeria, Lagos, explained to The Guardian that adherence to withdrawal period recommendation, which ranges from three to seven days for different antibiotics, is important for in egg powder production.
Oyadeyi said: “One of the key challenges that egg powder production in Nigeria will face is the issue of antibiotics residue in the eggs and the powder produced from them. The domestic egg production is growing rapidly, but it lacks important professional poultry production skills.
“The majority are not even aware of the poultry good management practices, not to talk of adhering to them.”
He argued that the problem for egg powder companies would shift from inadequate egg supply to large supply of unwholesome eggs, not being able to meet with minimum international standards.
“During the withdrawal periods, eggs and buy-products are not meant to be consumed by humans. Unfortunately, in our country, only a tiny proportion of the farmers are aware of the withdrawal period and hardly observe it.
“So, the egg glut challenge might not be resolved by establishment of egg powder-making factories in the country by various investors because many farmers won’t still be able to get their eggs to the factories because of quality,” he explained.
Low power generation, transmission and distribution as a result of poor infrastructure, corruption and regulatory deficiencies have made electricity supply in Nigeria a challenge for decades. Huge investments in the sector in the last two decades have not translated to improved power supply. This has made it difficult for industrial operators to minimise cost and remain sustainable.
Chief Ogunnaike also believed egg powder production could help the sector, but grossly inadequate power supply and running on independent power plants would make the production unprofitable and unsustainable.
“It is a welcome idea, but irregular supply of electricity is a big challenge. Agricultural processing requires constant power supply; it should be a minimum of 18 hours daily, if not 24 hours,” he said.
The stakeholders, therefore, called on the government to improve electricity supply to back industrial production, which in turn would make investments in egg powder production possible. They also advised the poultry association to embark on education of its members on the use of antibiotics and vaccines, and the need to adhere to instructions on veterinary drugs to make eggs produced in Nigeria wholesome.