Nigeria is losing about $2.7 billion (about N532 billion) annually in revenue to smuggling of poultry products, the Poultry Association of Nigeria has said.
The President of the association, Dr. Ayoola Oduntan, stated this while speaking during the 2015 Nigeria poultry summit, adding that smuggling of frozen chicken into Nigeria was a major challenge facing the sector.
Local production of chickens is said to fall short of the demand for the product, thereby creating an avenue for smuggling.
According to Oduntan, while the local demand for frozen chicken is above two million metric tonnes annually, Nigerian farmers are only able to produce 300,000 metric tonnes, leaving a wide gap of more than 1.7 million metric tonne.
“Out of this figure, smuggled chicken accounts for 1.2 million metric tonnes annually,” he said.
He also quoted the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) as saying, based on researches, smuggled poultry products into the country were partly responsible for several cases of digestive and intestinal health issues among consumers.
The PAN president said, “It has been discovered that smuggled poultry products contain high level of bacteria. Also, toxic chemicals and solvents are used in preserving them so that their owners can get them into our country to be sold at prices cheaper than we are selling.
“NAFDAC, in realising this, has agreed to embark on a nationwide campaign to inform all Nigerians that smuggled chicken is not acceptable for their good health; they should consume Nigeria-produced chicken.
According to a newspaper report, a recent study carried out by Nigerian scientists in various markets in Lagos, Abuja and Port-Harcourt has confirmed the fears that smuggled chicken contains substances dangerous to health.
The researchers found out that imported processed chicken and turkey were preserved with high level formalin, a chemical that could be injurious to health when consumed in high quantities.
One of the researchers, a nutritional enzymologist, Dr. Okhiomah Abu, reportedly said that poultry products imported into the country contained toxic and heavy metals that could worsen the occurrence of food-borne diseases.
Abu said, “Most of the feeds given to these poultry animals are usually contaminated and they contain metals. The heavy metals are concentrated in the kidney and livers of the chicken.
“They also find it difficult to excrete; so, they are passed along to humans who eat these imported metals. We also found out that poor handling of these imported meat increases the risk of contamination.”
Another researcher, Prof. C.I Alarima, said some studies had also showed that processed poultry products, especially chicken and turkey, were loaded with harmful microbes such as Salmonella, which had been linked with life-threatening food-borne diseases.
He said Salmonella infection had been the leading cause of food related deaths among those eating processed meat.
Stakeholders across the poultry value chain advised the Federal Government to take far reaching measures that could end the menace of smuggling as it was killing local industries.
They also pledged to support the government efforts in fighting the menace of smuggling.
Speaking on an effective measure of fighting the trend, a professor of Economics at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Sheriffdeen Tella, suggested policies that should be deliberately geared towards encouraging the patronage of local products.
He urged the Nigeria Customs Service should be alive to its responsibilities, adding, “Targets should be set for members of the NCS who should also be provided with incentives like security and insurance cover against accidents or unexpected deaths.”
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