The commissioning last Saturday of the 95,000 capacity hatchery at the Obasanjo Farm in Grand Cape Mount County is a great and serious opportunity for the poultry and egg industry in Liberia, and most
especially for poultry farmers.
President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Nigerian leader-turned major agricultural investor, with the encouragement of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has given Liberia its biggest poultry investment ever, and opened the way for our poultry farmers to buy day-old chicks and other products right here in Liberia.
Gone, hopefully forever, are the days when our farmers had to import their day-olds from Holland and other parts of Europe.
The Obasanjo farm is also expected to produce 22,000-24,000 broiler chicks per week and 10,000 pullets or layer chicks, depending on demand.
Our Presidential Correspondent William Harmon, who covered President Sirleaf's commissioning of the hatchery, said if local poultry farmers take advantage of the initiative, it would help end the importation of chickens and eggs in Liberia.
This has been going on since the late 1980s, following the outbreak of the war. We recall that in the mid-1980s poultry farmers, including Robert Bright, his son Rameses in Kakata, Margibi County, then Chief of Staff General Smith in Montserrado County, and others pleaded with the Daily Observer newspaper to expose their plight by putting pressure on the Agriculture Ministry to impose a tariff on imported eggs. The indiscriminate importation of chickens and eggs was ruining their business. They contended, rightly, that this was a totally unfair advantage, since European poultry farmers, empowered by subsidies from their governments and from the European Union (EU), were shipping their eggs and chickens by hundreds of container loads monthly to Liberia.
Not long after the Observer started writing about this problem, the Agriculture Ministry got the Samuel K. Doe government to ban the importation of chickens and eggs. Our poultry farmers were happy and grateful, and soon they started meeting the demand of the market.
But then came the civil war, when everything changed, with the looting and destruction of the Bright and other poultry farms and the disappearance of eggs from the market, except for the few produced by local chickens. But these soon disappeared, too, as rebel soldiers seized every chicken, goat, sheep and cow in sight, resulting in a massive scarcity of eggs and meat in the country.
Since the end of the war merchants have intensified their importation of poultry and eggs, making Liberia nothing more than a dumping ground for European chicken and eggs, much of it outdated.
This has caused widespread discouragement among local poultry farmers, many of whom, including Sangai Farm in Suacoco, Bong County and Wulki Farm in Careysburg, Montserrado County, have been struggling for survival. Urey Farm was even producing day-old chicks and broilers, though on a small scale.
Market women bought the imported chicken and sold them in piles that have become increasingly expensive, causing many customers to switch to fish.
The Obasanjo farm has also pledged to engage in training and agricultural extension, in a bid to encourage poultry farmers to reenter the industry. Obasanjo Farm says it will go one step further, by empowering Liberian farmers to grow more corn and other products in order to begin the manufacture of chicken and animal feed that would limit imports.
The Agriculture Ministry says Obasanjo Farm is a major concession which is not in competition with local farms, but is instead designed to help them.
We pray that this major development will be taken very seriously by Liberian farmers. Here, it is important to remind ourselves that we should not depend on Obasanjo Farm alone to encourage farmers to grow corn. We call on the Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) to become actively involved in training the farmers in the proper and successful cultivation of corn and other crops that will enhance feed production. They would have a ready market–Obasanjo and other poultry and livestock farms–and we trust that the government will ensure that the farmers are given a fair price for their corn. This will encourage them to produce even
more and make money to improve their family livelihood.
Obasanjo Farms should do everything possible to encourage ALL poultry farmers to become profitable and successful.