Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ebola: More Nigerian Farmers Face Losses

Nigerian Mirror
Sep 12, 2014

The outbreak of Ebola disease, which scientists say could be contracted through consumption of bush meat, has adversely affected both poultry and piggery business, due to low patronage ABOLAJI ADEBAYO and HAKEEM GBADAMOSI report

The bush meat business has been adversely affected with the outbreak of Ebola disease, given that some of the wild animals such as monkeys and fruit bats harbour the virus.

However, the report in some quarters that birds and other animals such as pig may be carriers of the Ebola virus has put more farmers at the risk.

While many dealers of bush meat across the country have been forced out of the business due to low patronage. The launch of campaign against consumption of pork recently by the Lagos State Government has threatened the business of many piggery farmers as well as pork meat sellers across the state.

Some piggery farmers, who spoke to our correspondent at Oko-Oba area of Agege, Lagos said they were surprised when they first heard the campaign cautioning pork consumers from further consumption, saying since the campaign has been skyrocketing, their business has been grossly affected just as the bush meat business.

Investigation by National Mirror also revealed that most pork sellers in the state have lost considerable patronage.

A pork seller at Oshodi, Mrs.Iyabode Agoola told National Mirror that she has not been making good sales as she used to. She said it would be difficult for her to venture into another business if the pork business finally fails.

Managing Director, Aro-Agro Nigeria Limited, Mr. Lukman Arogundade said his worry about the campaign was that it has never been proved scientifically by experts that pigs also harbours the deadly disease.

Probably due to proximity of the two states, the pig and pork business in Ogun State has also been experiencing similar encounter with those in Lagos as some of the dealers in the business told our correspond in Abeokuta the same story.

In an interview with National Mirror, the Administrative Secretary of the Poultry Association of Nigeria, PAN, Ogun State chapter, Mr. Temitayo Oguntola, said such campaign is a mere strategy to destroy the piggery farming, which could be extended to whole poultry farming in the country.

Oguntola, said the industry has been one of the sectors that create employments and contribute the Nigerian economy.

He said, “The importance of poultry industry to Nigerian economy cannot be over emphasised. No serious government can see agriculture going into collapse and fold its arms since agriculture is one of the measures that support food security because without food, no man can live.

He maintained that the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease, EVD, is one of the issues and challenges that is presently facing poultry farming in Nigeria today.

“Let me emphasise that pig production is an essential sector of poultry farming that has contributed to the Nigerian agricultural economy. With the rumour that has not been scientifically proven that pig can definitely be a reservoir of Ebola, the sector may be terminated and consequently affect the agricultural sector of the country.

“Let me also emphasise that all scientific researches available to us in this office from the advanced countries has not given us any indication that pork is a reservoir of the disease. The only one we are already familiar with are the bat, monkey and possibly, the bush meat which of course, the Federal Government of Nigeria has been doing wonderful campaign about.

Oguntola stated that the campaign against consumption of pork has almost killed the industry and forced people out of the business.

“If you take a good look at the pig production industry in Nigeria since the EVD outbreak has been announced, it has affected the pig farmers seriously.

“Most of the farmers are going out of production. Attendants, who were gainfully employed to work in the piggery section have all ran away because of the fear that pig can be a reservoir of the EVD.

Oguntola, who recalled that the outbreak of bird flu in 2006 almost killed the poultry industry, said poultry farming would have gone far more than this because it would have contributed more to the Gross National Income.

He stated that if not for the federal government and the media industry, which had been very consistently proactive in disseminating information about the causative organisms of the bird flu, how it affect the birds, preventive measures, treatments, curative and chemotherapeutic steps, the poultry industry would have been exterminated in the country.

In terms of the pig and pork, Oguntola, however, wants thorough research to be carried out on the vulnerability of pigs to the Ebola Virus Disease.

“We need more research after all; there are many research institutes in Nigeria. Let there be a documented research thesis if the pig in context is truly one of the animals that are reservoirs of EVD.

“Many people have been in the piggery farming for over a long period of time; some for 30 years and it has always been their sole source of income.

“If it is scientifically proven that pig is a reservoir, then we will have no excuse than to surrender them but with a caveat.

“In that case, the Federal Government can slaughter them and pay the farmers compensation for their loss because that is one of the measures which government of advanced countries used go do. “Let the Federal Government sponsor our university professors, researchers and research institutes that are into Animal Science, Vetenary Medicine, the Department of Wildlife, the Department of Livestock and others areas to carry out the research”, he said.

However, the sales of pork is still flourishing in Ondo State despite the rumour that pigs may harbour the dreaded Ebola Virus disease.

A visit to the market in Akure by the National Mirror correspondent indicated that the rumour has not affected the sales and consumption of the product as many of those selling pork said there was no reduction in the supply and demand for the product.

According to Mrs. Osula, a trader who specialises in the sale of pork at the Erekesan neighbourhood market in Akure, the Ondo State capital, there was a sharp drop in the sales of pork meat at the initial stage of the rumour but people started demanding for the meat again after it was confirmed by the state government that there was no cases of Ebola in the state.

“I can refer you to our major supplier, and you can visit their farm along Ado Ekiti road. You will see that they operate on a very clean environment. Ebola is not here and we are sure our government is doing its best to curtail the virus and I believe it will not get to this state.

A visit to Banawaye piggery farms also showed that the sale of pork was not affected by the noise over Ebola Virus.

Speaking with National Mirror, the manager director of the farm, Taiwo Lawal, said from his record of daily sales in the past four weeks, there was no drop in the sales. He maintained that the farm usually experienced high sales during weekends.

“I guess they want to spoil business for us. There was no need to panic and link Ebola with pork meat. The virus has not been scientifically linked with pig anywhere in the world, why then somebody should wake up one day without any proof and raise false alarm,” he queried.

He said further “the only animals proved to be hosting the Ebola virus are bats, monkeys, gorilla and we don’t rear them in our piggeries, so why the unfounded alarm over pork meat which can only destroy people’s businesses and livelihood.”

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