A poultry farmer in Bayelsa State, Innocent Aluu, tells OPEYEMI ADEFEMI how the flood ravaging state wreaked his farm
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Innocent Aluu. I am a farmer. My farm is in Bayelsa State; in the Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State but I am a native of Abia State from Arochukwu Local Government Area.
How long have you been into poultry farming?
This is my fourth year in poultry farming and the experience had been great for me until this year. I had a farm in Akwa Ibom State, but I had to close it down and move to Bayelsa in December 2020.
What made you move your farm from Akwa Ibom State to Bayelsa State?
The major motivation was money. I realised that in Bayelsa State there are only a few farms. At the time I moved, a crate of eggs was being sold in Bayelsa State for as high as N1,650, whereas in Akwa Ibom State, it was sold for N1,250 at the time.
You recently made a post on the social media lamenting that you incurred huge losses as a result of the floods that ravaged Bayelsa State. How exactly did the flood affect you?
Before I moved to Bayelsa State, I actually took my time to study the area I sited the poultry farm. I did my findings about the pattern of flooding in the area. I got information on the extent of previous floods in the area and the extent to which people were affected. Based on my findings, I chose an area that wasn’t always prone to flooding. I was told that flood never gets to the place and that was my experience until this year. Last year, there was flooding but it didn’t affect my farm. Unfortunately, this year the flood was so much and divided the road through which I get supplies for the farm. We were low on feeds and medications for the birds but it was difficult to get supplies. When that happened, it became a problem to feed our 10,000 birds.
We resorted to going around to retail shops to buy feeds and that presented a problem, because we had to buy different brands of feeds, which is something that is not really good for these birds. By standard, that is not how to feed the farm birds but the floods had disrupted our operations. We kept managing and hoping that the floods would recede. Unfortunately, the floods did not.
The secondary effect of the prolonged floods is that it brought diseases. So, we were not only struggling to feed the birds, we were also battling bird flu. Bird flu has been in Bayelsa State for some time but we had managed to prevent it from getting into our farm. However, the flood brought it into the farm. It was just too much for us to handle. Even our treatment plan was disrupted.
We also have an hatchery for fingerlings.The plant that was meant for the hatchery was destroyed by the floods. We also have fish ponds with fishes at the grow-out stage. When the floods came, the fishes began to die. Each day we went to check the ponds, we found fishes floating. We lost all the fishes.
For the birds, the daily losses increased from 20 to 100 birds; then we recorded 200 deaths. When you walked from the beginning of the poultry picking dead chickens, by the time you were walking back you would find another 100 dead birds. At that point we just didn’t know what to do again.
What is the total number of chickens you lost?
By the time we checked, we had lost a total of 9,400 birds. Even the 600 birds that survived, I had to call people to come pick them for N500 each. These were birds that I should have sold for N3,000 each.
Before this problem started, we had made an arrangement with someone from Aba to come buy the chickens. We were still going back and forth on the price when the problem started. If I had sold the birds at N2,500 each, I would have made N25m. We used to get an average of 188 crates of eggs daily. It should have been over 300 crates but because of the irregularities in supplies. As for the hatchery, we are actually one of the biggest producers of fingerlings in Bayelsa State. Before we started, most people used to go all the way to Delta State to get fingerlings or grow-out fishes and that was why we decided to invest in that.
For the first time we were able to get it right since we started. I was already jubilating as it would have been a big win for me. We had got orders for them for the fingerlings. A particular man placed a huge order. We just had two more weeks to start distributing the fingerlings to the people that placed orders when the problem started.
Have you estimated how much you’ve lost in terms of money?
I will say I have lost not less than N75m. We evacuated all the dead birds and buried them. I had a meeting with my farm workers. They all looked sad. I know I had lost, money which is painful, but when I looked at these people, the pain was even much more. These were people I convinced to leave their previous jobs to come work for me. The guy managing the poultry farm was brought from Lagos, the guy managing the fishes was brought from Akwa Ibom. I have another person from Plateau State. They were all poached from their previous jobs to work for me and the experience had been awesome. All these people have families to cater for. Looking at it, where will they start from? I couldn’t tell what was going through their minds but I could see the hopelessness on their faces. Nothing can be done about the situation.
How do you feel about all this?
I feel hopeless. I am still trying to ascertain the level of damage to the farm as I cannot go back to business immediately. There will be a lot of maintenance and repairs to do. If I put all these into consideration, it means I will be needing a huge amount of money to start again. Right now, I am pleading with the government to please come to our aid. The 17 employees on the farm are helpless too. This will definitely have an impact on the state because if the few farms present are packing up, that means the state will be depending on other states for food and this will have an effect on prices. This is the more reason I want the government to come to our aid and bring us back to our feet. Farming is something I really have passion for and before this thing happened, I actually had an agreement with IFAD, an international organisation. They came and checked my farm and it was certified as one of the best in the state. Even the CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) had been on my farm countless times. I was already in the process of becoming one of the trainers in the state. These are the things that if nothing is done, I will lose out on. And who knows the number of people that should be trained and won’t have the opportunity? I am pleading with well-meaning Nigerians, the Bayelsa State Government, the Federal Government to see how they can help us.