Multi-billion naira ranching opportunity beckons on Nigerian investors

The recent ban on open grazing in Southern Nigeria by the governors has presented billion-dollar investment opportunity in ranching for entrepreneurs to tap into.

The opportunities range from the cultivation of Napier grass for fodder to the building of ranches and integrated farming systems that boost livestock productivity and welfare.

However, tapping into these opportunities means changing Africa’s most populous country’s current method of animal husbandry, ensuring an end to the prolonged farmers-herders conflicts, addressing critical issues stalling the growth of the industry, and creating jobs.

“Total ban on open grazing in the country creates huge investment opportunity for investors. From the production of livestock feeds to ranch management, conservation, hauling, and marketing, investors can tap these opportunities across the value chains,” Ahmed Adeyemi Amisu, lecturer at the Department of Pasture and Range Management, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, says in a telephone interview.

“Ranging is a big business and its adoption in Nigeria is fundamental as it will help create jobs, create a database for livestock production and address the farmers-herders crisis,” Amisu states.

He notes that entrepreneurs can only tap from the huge investment opportunity ranching creates when government at all levels puts an end to open grazing and ensure that ranching becomes a business.

Currently, Nigeria imports over 95 percent of finished and raw milk, spending an average of $481 million (N197bn) on its importation yearly, the National Livestock Transformation Policy document stated.

Rearing herds of cattle within the confines of a ranch with all needed facilities help in boosting their milk production productivity, which according to experts, in turn, will reduce the country’s milk importation.

The experts note that Africa’s biggest economy can only reduce its milk importation amid FX shortages and create the much-needed jobs for its teeming population when it adopts innovation and ranching model in its animal husbandry.

A 2019 PWC report on Nigeria’s dairy industry stated that local productivity of cow breeds managed by pastoralists was low at 0.5 to 1.5 litres of milk per day compared with an average milk yield of 8 litres per day by cows in Nigeria’s managed pastures.

“With pastoralists traversing the country in search of available forage and water sources, they pay little or no attention to the nutritional content and suitability of the feed and water their cows consume,” Commercial Dairy Ranchers Association of Nigeria said in a note.

“Energy gained from the innutritious feed consumed through grazing is mainly used for trekking and will contribute little or nothing to the animal’s economic productivity,” the association said.

Currently, Botswana, which has more cattle than the human population, points the way for investors who are looking at taking advantage of the opportunity in the Nigerian livestock value chain.

The Southern African country has adopted ranching techniques similar to the ones practiced in South Africa, Australia and Argentina.

Most of its ranches are medium- and large-sized cattle ranches fitted with a flavour of modern global dairy practice mostly driven by the private sector with the government providing the right policies and infrastructure.

According to experts, Nigeria can adopt Botswana’s model to develop its livestock industry and tackle the decades-long farmers-herders conflicts.

“There are huge investment opportunities in ranching, which we are yet to tap,” states AfricanFarmer Mogaji, chief executive, X-Ray Consulting Limited.

“Botswana is an example we can learn from in ranching as their economic growth is mainly from livestock production,” Mogaji says.

In 2019, Africa’s biggest economy unfolded a 10-year National Livestock Plan as a way of checking incessant clashes between farmers/herders, which have claimed innumerable lives and properties.

Also, the government announced moves to create 94 ranches in 10 pilot states under the plan and budgeted N179billion for the project.

A move stakeholders applauded but noted it must be a private sector investment while the government provides the enabling environment.

SOURCE: BUSINESS DAY

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