The Third National Development Plan in Nigeria (1975-1980) envisaged accelerated agricultural growth as being essential for future nutritional growth and emphasized the need for qualitative rather than quantitative food output. This was followed by the publication of a national food balance sheet by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources which revealed the critical extent of essential foods deficiencies in the country.
The target was the improvement of production management, the breeding and feathering of livestock as well as the provision of veterinary services.
From the period of the plan till date, the dream of attaining the required nutritional growth for the Nigerian populace had remained a far cry as outputs of animal products still fall below the minimum nutritional requirements.
Poultry, which involves the domestication of birds (fowls, turkeys, ducks and geese) kept for egg or meat production, is the quickest source of meat and its production process involves the least hazardous and arduous in relation to other livestock enterprise.
Hence, increased poultry production is one of the surest and quickest ways of bridging the animal protein intake gap in the developing countries of the world and in Nigeria, most importantly.
Although the task of bridging this protein intake gap appears formidable in view of the present economic and technological constraints besetting the livestock industry, its importance and the need to make it a reality must not be overlooked.
Known for its significant contribution to human nutrition and economic development, the poultry sector, according to Alabi and Osifo (2014) constitutes more than 57% of the total livestock production in Nigeria with many going into it for either meat, egg or both production.
With the ever increasing population of Nigeria, the poultry industry has not been able to meet up the animal protein need of the populace even as it has all the potentiality of providing the protein need of man. Many people still find it difficult to eat an egg in a year against the recommended average of 240 eggs in a year per person.
This indicates that despite several actions by both the government and few individuals, the chronic deficiency in qualitative food output still yearns for solution.
However, talking about solution, the problem of insufficient supply of hatchable eggs and day-old-chicks must be addressed. It has been observed that at certain periods of the year, hatchable eggs and day-old-chicks (DOC) go out of supply even with substantial amount of import, a situation that subjects peasant poultry farmers to booking for order and waiting for weeks without result.
Worst still, when these orders are eventually made available, almost all the farmers end up brooding birds at the same time and the result is an eventual egg glot in the market. Therefore, egg production calendar is now marked by glot and scarcity periods, as a result of irregular supply of the source of chicks and eggs.
For farmers in Rivers State, what can be a worse experience and set back than lack of adequate qualitative feed appropriate to the ages of the birds?
While farmers in the West and North, who have the privilege of proximity to source of raw materials are at liberty to formulate their feeds to desired standards, the Rivers State farmers see it as a very critical factor in poultry management.
They remain at the mercy of the commercial feed producers from the West who are more concerned about their profit even when the quality of the finished feeds tends to undermine the health and eventual performances of birds.
Moreso, the transportation cost of these feeds from the west to Port Harcourt, in no small measure, increases their cost of production high above what farmers from other states incure. The result is that the farmer in Rivers State is unable to compete favourably with his counterparts elsewhere .
Port Harcourt thus becomes a dumping ground for poultry products from neighbouring states which must be sold before products from within due to a downward slash in the price of the outside products, because of cost advantage.
Suffice it to say that for farmers in the state to meet up with the protein requirements of the state, a provision of functional feed mill that will formulate standard feed to serve the farmers within the state will be a great boost to the local industry.
Apart from the afore-mentioned, the problem of the poultry farmer in Rivers State, could be purely managerial and skill-based.
Like every field of endeavour, poultry farming is one sector which requires more than any other, a careful application of managerial expertise, if one’s capital investment is to be safeguarded and profitable returns expected.
The usual orientation of backyard poultry predominant in the western region of Nigeria has left many with the psyche that poultry business is an all-comers affairs, that could be started at any time without adequately counting the cost of commitment.
This has not just led to the abrupt abortions of many such ventures, but had in most cases devastated some homes who had put in fortunes, probably their retirement benefits just to make ends meet through poultry farming.
The later therefore, poses great concern as to the right attitude towards poultry farming.