By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA
Rattled by the stoppage of food items and cattle to the South from the North by the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuffs and cattle Dealers of Nigeria in the last week of February and early March 2021, and the negative effects of the blockade, South West governments, particularly Lagos, have begun the process of ending the region’s dependence on agricultural products from the northern part of the country.
It would be recalled that the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuffs and cattle Dealers of Nigeria had in February stopped the movement of cattle and food products to the South while protesting the losses incurred by its members during the #EndSARS’ protest and razing of their properties at Shasha market in Oyo State.
The union also demanded the payment of compensation of N4.75 billion to its members before the blockade could be lifted. Many articulated vehicles conveying cows, and food products like grains, yams, potatoes, onions, pepper and other commodities were stopped by the union’s task force at the North’s borders with the South.
This resulted in scarcity and hike in the prices of meat and other food items in markets in the South for the period that the blockade lasted.
While wading into the matter, the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, had described the blockade as a wake-up call to the South. A chieftain of YCE, Dansaaki Samuel Agbede, said: “I want to congratulate the northerners for taking that action because they will wake us up from our slumber.
“Let them take back their foodstuffs and eat it. There shouldn’t be any quarrel about it. But the herders should stop grazing their cattle on our farmlands because it’s their cattle that eat our fresh maize and cassava,” Agbede had warned.
One and half month after the suspension of the blockade, the Lagos State government seems to have headed the call of the YCE chieftain to wake up from their slumber and start producing agricultural products for the consumption of her people.
To actualise the ‘Operation Feed Lagos’ project, the state recently reeled out several policies and programmes. One of them is a Stakeholders’ Engagement on the Red Meat Value Chain held in Alausa, Ikeja.
Speaking to the private sector delegates at the conference, the state Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms Abisola Olusanya, called on them to partner with the state to establish feedlots for cattle rearing and fattening in furtherance of its reforms and sanitization of the red meat value chain.
She further said that the partnership became necessary as it would ensure better production and supply of cattle for consumption in the state.
The feedlots, she said, would help revive, resuscitate and fatten cows that might have travelled from the North from where they may have come to Lagos before slaughtering them when operational.
“We have been having discussions around the transformation agenda centred on abattoirs, transportation and markets but there is a revised plan to have a more holistic approach to the red meat value chain.
“We are not just focusing on abattoirs alone which are a processing angle, we are starting right from the animal identification and traceability systems, meaning right from the source or point of origination of the cattle.
“That is why we want to establish feedlots in the state so that we can have cattle fattening centres. Having feedlot centres means that the cattle can rest, they can be fattened so that people can make more profit, and you have even more wholesome beef on your table.
“We will like to deliver and achieve all of these things this year if possible, so you can start off with a pilot project. So we want the relevant private sector to partner with us to establish the feedlots, everything is going to be a private sector drive as the government is only going to create the necessary enabling environment”, the commissioner stated.
She however noted that the feedlot system is not just for resuscitating and fattening alone, but for the purpose of rearing the cattle themselves in the state.
“We have land in Lagos that can be used for this and that is what Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu wants in the state,” Olusanya stated.
In his own address, the Chairman, Lagos State Butchers Association, Mr. Bamidele Kareem, said the association was ready to set up feedlots, as well as rear and scale-up meat requirement of consumers in Lagos if the state government would approve their request on the provision of 50 hectares of land for ranching.
“We (Lagosians) are the highest consumers of red meat in Nigeria. But we butchers don’t breed cattle. That is why we are begging government for feedlots for breeding. Remember in 1946 during the colonial era there were ranches in the Western region and when Chief Obafemi Awolowo became the Premier he expanded it.
“Subsequently, the intervention of the military crumbled it and made it look as if only Fulani who can breed cattle and that’s what we are facing now. Even if we can’t produce what we can consume at the least we can produce substantive quantity.
“We are proposing a land at Imota area of the state to the state government but we understood the government is looking at another land in Epe. We pray it happens soon,” Kareem stated.
He also used the occasion to appeal to the state government to help address the challenges confronting meat production in the state. These challenges, he said, include poor economy, epileptic power supply and poor infrastructure among many others.
Speaking to BH on the sidelines of the conference, the state Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms Abisola Olusanya, said over 6,000 heads of cattle daily, translating to over 1.8 million herds of cattle with a market value of N328 billion are consumed in Lagos annually. She also revealed that over 1.4 million herds of sheep and goats are consumed.
“The idea around the red meat value chain stakeholders’ engagement is to have a sort of conclusion around how the sector should move forward and we will be working with the Butchers Association Lagos State Chapter, which has a membership of over 30,000 butchers.
“We do not produce red meat but we would like to expand on what we can do within the red meat sector.
“Lagos is consuming well over 50 per cent of what Nigeria produces in terms of red meat. When we break it down, Lagos consumes well over 6,000 heads of cattle on a daily basis, which translates to 1.8 million heads of cattle on annually.
“When you consider the transactional value alone for Lagos, it is over N328bn but we are producing nothing. But what stops us from setting up ranches in this state?
“We are the largest market. It also makes sense that we set up ranches such that we are closer to market, we remove the logistics costs. We are actually working on that and we would be rolling out the Expression of Interest next week”, she said.
Stakeholders present at the meeting include members of the Abattoir Concessionaire Forum, Executive Council and Board of Trustees of the Lagos State Butchers’ Association as well as members of the Lagos State Butchers’ Association from each abattoir and slaughterhouse in the state.