The agricultural sector is an important driver of the economy. But the sector is under pressure from the public about animal ill health and safety response. Risks to public health from livestock production businesses are part of the growing concerns. Against this backdrop, there are campaigns to improve livestock safety responses, DANIEL ESSIETreports
The worth of Nigeria’s livestock production is estimated at N33 trillion, according to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, who added that it formed 17 per cent of the country’s agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Notably, the livestock sector is a pillar of the food system and a contributor to poverty reduction, food security and agricultural development.
Over nine million pastoralists in Nigeria rely on livestock for food and income, according to Scandinavian Institute of African Studies.
It is in view of the foregoing that the government, the minister said, is committed to improving the livestock sector’s contribution to development.
On the whole, the livestock industry remains a critical part of the economy. Given its role in providing employment and disposal income, the sector can impact more on the nation’s GDP. The sector has continued to attract both domestic and foreign investors.
The high rate of meat consumption has provided opportunities for investors. However, the sector is at the risk of animal ill health. To reduce it, there have been campaigns for improved regulations aimed at making the business safer with focus on enforcement.
For instance, the National Assembly has shown commitment to rules that would ensure traceability and tighter control on livestock identity and slaughter.
After a bill for an Act to establish the National Livestock Identification and Management Bureau scaled second reading on the floor, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, noted that the livestock industry, if properly harnessed and regulated, could generate trillions of naira.
He said: “This is an industry of between N5 and N10 trillion in this country. And any government or parliament will try to do anything possible to ensure that such an industry is protected and promoted to ensure that people earned their livelihood and have a food reserve of a sort from that industry.
The identification is just one side of it, but the protection and management of this sector of our economy that is so huge and massive are critical to our economy.
“It is not something that we will leave to the states to do whatever they want to do. Let the states also try to legislate to complement whatever the National Assembly will do.’’
Earlier, sponsor of the Bill for an Act to Establish the National Livestock Identification and Management Bureau, Senator Muhammad Enagi Bima (APC, Niger South), stressed that the piece of legislation under consideration sought to solve the challenge of animal identification and management in Nigeria.
Today, consumer demand for authenticity and transparency is on the rise in the Lagos market. The red meat industry is not immune to safety issues that impact stakeholders. A bigger focus of the state government has been on the creation of livestock production clusters to allow farmers to share methods to improve their competitiveness.
Meetings have been held by producers and processors to make sure red meat has the highest safety and hygiene standards from the producer to the consumer.
Lagos Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms. Abisola Olusanya, noted that the red meat industry represented a significant percentage of the sector.
Ms. Olusanya maintained that consumers were demanding traceability in the sector. According to her, processors, retailers and consumers want meat that is wholesome, reliably sourced, and handled efficiently.
She continued that protecting consumer trust was, therefore, paramount to the continued success of the industry.
The state government is strengthening collaboration with the Veterinary Council of Nigeria (VCN) to enhance expertise and preparedness in tackling emerging infections.
The President, Veterinary Council of Nigeria, AIG, Dr. Aishatu Baju, is making efforts to improve traceability and safety compliance in Lagos and other states.
She noted that Nigeria required a minimum of five veterinarians in a local government area for the effective containment of disease outbreaks and monitoring.
With 774 local government areas, this means Nigeria requires 3,870 veterinarians to work solely at that level. There aren’t enough in active practice even for this requirement.
Former Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ilorin, Prof. Abiodun Adeloye, believes a robust traceability system for red meat and livestock is crucial to securing the sector.
According to him, traceability protects the industry and the public’s well-being by strengthening the ability to respond quickly to disease outbreaks, food safety issues and natural disasters.
He sought cooperation with local veterinary services to limit the spread of viruses and to reduce the risk of contagion for the livestock holders, producers and other groups at risk.
So far, a few private firms have started implementing measures to boost traceability in the production chains. One ot those championing this is the Managing Director, Chanan Elo’a Integrated, Udeme Etuk.
He has experience of the diverse methods of animal identification. He has seen animals tagged to enable tracing. In Botswana, he visited calves with identification and metal clips in their ears.
He believes traceability will enable farmers to prove the origin and health record of their cattle, while reducing risks to buyers.
Etuk canvassed the need for the government and the private sector to develop a traceability system for beef products to be identified and distinguished among other produce across supply chains.
According to him, stakeholders should be able to verify and authenticate beef products from anywhere in the supply chains.
Head, Inspectorate Department, Nigerian Institute of Animal Science, Olufemi Atunbi, noted that a robust traceability system would help to ensure the country maintained the reputation of producing safe and healthy food, which helps ensure a profitable agricultural sector.
A strong, vigorous traceability system, Atunbi added, gives assurance to consumers.
Hence, the efforts by the institute to implement regulatory enforcement to revamp the livestock traceability system.
That Nigeria does not have a nationwide traceability system is keeping the agricultural sector out of the global marketplace. Many international consumers assume traceability don’t exist in the sector.
According to the experts, many countries in Africa face similar challenges when accessing regional markets.
Stakeholders see the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) providing market opportunities for livestock producers.
Atunbi is one of the stakeholders, who sees AfCFTA as a game-changer for the livestock industry, provided that there is a robust implementation plan.
For the beef industry, he sees AfCFTA unlocking new opportunities in African regions that Nigerians have not traded with before.
While AfCFTA agreement presents Nigeria with a unique opportunity to unleash its economic potential through the livestock industry, Atunbi noted that trading partners would demand that producers present traceability certificates. Producers, he advised, must begin extensive work to ramp up their standards in a bid to crack into the continent market amid concerns that cheaply-produced livestock imports would undermine produce on shelves across the country
There are positive feelings about being able to get into the African market; there are many questions over how it will work out.
Traceability also remains a stumbling block as cattle movement in most parts of the continent are only recorded for batches and not individual animals.
Cattle are only recorded as coming from the last farm on which they were kept, rather than where they were born and with other movements.
Meanwhile, Zambabwe-based E-Livestock Global has launched a first-of-its-kind solution powered by Mastercard’s blockchain-based Provenance solution that enables traceability in the industry.
The facility, which is the first in the Middle East and Africa, will improve traceability of livestock, making it easy for producers to access export markets.
Founder/President, E-Livestock Global, Mr. Max Makuvise, said the Mastercard’s Provenance solution could safely track the authenticity of the cattle’s journey at every stage, from birth to sale.
“Tracking the medical history of cattle on a tamper-proof blockchain ledger will foster renewed trust in Zimbabwean cattle farming and re-establish Zimbabwe’s credibility as an international beef exporter.
“It will also open up new opportunities for farmers – especially small farmers who were impacted the most by the 2018 Theileriosis (Popularly known as January Disease) outbreak. Ultimately, this will drive trust for multiple stakeholders by combining industry expertise with data privacy,” he said.
Division President, Mastercard, Southern Africa, Mr. Mark Elliott, said building trust in industries was essential for a functioning and reliable value chain.
“At Mastercard, we believe that seamless supply chain transparency can help convey authenticity, expand inclusion, share sustainability practices and improve back-office efficiencies. Our globally-scaled technology and established network capabilities are advancing this process, enabling smarter buying decisions and inclusion of all players, whatever their size,” he said.
The E-Livestock Global solution brings end-to-end visibility to the cattle supply chain.
Commercial farmers and dipping officers tag each head of cattle with a unique, ultra-high frequency RFID tag – as mandated by government and register it and its owner onto the solution.
Each time the animal gets dipped, vaccinated or receives medical treatment, the tag records the event onto the traceability system.
E-Livestock Global records these events to maintain a secure and tamper-proof trail of each animal’s history. This, in turn, supports the entire supply chain with trusted, transparent and verifiable data.
“For farmers, it provides an irrefutable record that proves ownership, supports sales and exports, as well as allows them to obtain a loan, using their cattle as collateral. For buyers, it enables them to efficiently manage their operations and guarantee product quality to their customers,” he said.