Livestock imports ban as elixir to conserving forex

The porosity of Nigeria’s border and the unabating corruption at all the entry points, both for human and materials, which has made the country a ‘dumping ground’ for toxic materials, is now receiving attention. CALEB ONWE writes

Nigeria has inadvertently and unfortunately taken upon itself the toga of ‘free import zone’ for all manner of things, that cut across board. To put it more precisely, the porosity of Nigeria’s border and the un-abating corruption at all the entry points, both for humans and materials, have made the country a dumping ground for every toxic materials that are rejected by less rich countries in the African region.

The situation is not just creating a conduit pipe that is constantly draining the country’s economy, since most of these imported “junks” are not properly taxed and channelled to add value to the country’s fiscal status, but is also reducing the viability of many of the nation’s economic sectors.

Economic loss

Apart from those who directly deal in the animal genetics resources in the livestock sector, not many are aware that there is an “uncontrollable” importation of animal genetics and semen into the country for various reasons.

Imports of agricultural products into the country have continued to allegedly gulp up to $2 billion annually. Besides the chunk of the money spent on import of rice, flour, fish, tomato paste, eggs, textile and sugar, a great percentage of the money goes into import of animals and animal related-products.

In one of the reports credited to the Minister of Transport, Chibuike Amaechi, in which he buttressed the position of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh. Amaechi was quoted to have observed that “about 30 per cent of live animals slaughtered in Nigeria are imported from neighbouring countries.

“Like other subsidiaries, livestock industry development is constrained by low productivity breeds, inadequate access to feeds and grazing lands, frequent farmers-pastoralists conflict, lack of processing facilities and low value addition and low technical inputs in the management of animals, including diseases.”

These and other reports expose not just the inhibiting factors to the development of several Nigeria economic sectors, but the depth of danger facing the livestock sub-sector of agriculture.

Animal semen importation

The need for cross breeding of animal species is said to have necessitated the quest for animal semen collection and importation. Experts explained that semen collection is the process of obtaining semen from male human or other animals with the use of various methods for the purpose of artificial insemination, or medical study, usually in fertility clinics.

In addition, semen can also be collected via masturbation, according to some medical reports. When animal semen is collected for artificial insemination, it is also said to have the capacity of being stored either for short or long-term period.

And to assess the potential fertility, the experts usually subject some of these animals to clinical test to obtain relevant diagnostic information.

While some stakeholders argue that nothing is wrong with the desire to acquire special breeds of animals, hence the importation of the semen, majority also affirmed that with all the necessary research facilities put in place in the country, there are seasoned breeders and animal genetic resources professionals that can develop whatever kind of animal species or breeds that can add value to the nation’s livestock sector.

One of such experts, Dr. Chris Onikun, has in one of the media reports, allegedly urged the government to set up breeding and multiplication centres in the country to curb the incessant depletion of the nation’s foreign reserves through animal semen and genetic resources import.

He also said that there is need for a centre for production of animal semen for artificial insemination, as one release of semen from an animal could be taken to the laboratory where it can be processed and given to more animals for reproduction.

Underdevelopment Media reports have it that most of the mega farms in Nigeria import livestock semen from different countries to breed various species of animals found in their farms. According to Dr. Poopola Mustapha, a reproductive biotechnologist, the danger in importing animal semen into the country, is that each time there is such im- portation; “jobs are exported from Nigeria.”

He also suggested that the neglect of animal genetic research in the country due to the frenzy of big farm owners in the importation of some animal genetic materials and semen from other countries, and the outright abandonment of research by the government have remained the bane of continuous under-development of the sector and incapacitation of professionals and animal genetic researchers in the field who are not given the opportunity for capacity building.

Mustapha also noted that there are diseases not meant for this country that finds its way to the nation’s livestock industry due to unregulated importation of animal semen and other genetic materials into the country.

Floating semen collection centre Apart from reducing the awful depletion of the nation’s foreign reserves through importation, experts in the livestock sector have also said that establishing a centre for animal genetic resources and semen collection in the country will further boost development in the sector and create jobs, as well as opportunity for professional capacity building among the practitioners in the sector.

Responding to the urgent need to establish such centre in the country, the Director General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) Prof. Lucy Ogbaudu, convened a workshop for Animal Genetic Resources Research Group in the country recently.

The aims and objectives of the workshop were said to includeworking out a modality for the establishment of a centre for animal semen collection and preservation protocol in the country.

It was also stressed that apart from the policy document, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, presented and was adopted by the National Council on Agriculture at the Port Harcourt Conference, there is no standard regulations for an import transaction in livestock industry, such as semen collection and preservation protocol in Nigeria.

It is a well known fact that animal agricultural research is not well positioned in this country.”

She also stated that the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), as a research development agency, will continue to support researchers, both nationally and internationally to provide affordable solution, using different biotechnologies available to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians in the areas of food and nutritional security.

Conclusion

Almost all the professionals in animal breeding and genetics agree that establishing an animal genetics and semen collection in Nigeria was over due and lack of it was a negation of the Global Plan of Action on conservation of animal genetics resources agreement Nigeria joined other countries to sign in Switzerland since 2007.

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