Many detest pig and its meat. Even the mere sight of this mammal evokes unpleasant feelings. But NNAMDI ABANA reveals the hidden treasure in rearing one of the filthiest animals
The agricultural sector is one that has been ignored in Nigeria, even as it was the mainstay of the country’s economy in the 1960s and 70s. Groundnut, cocoa and palm produce were big foreign exchange earners before the discovery of crude oil in large quantity in the 50s.
Efforts by successive administrations to diversify the Nigerian economy, since oil is greatly losing value in the international market, yield little results. Even the palm oil the country used to export has become an import commodity.
However, recent developments have started pushing Nigerians into the farm, as local agro-based industries are springing up with the help of government and entrepreneurs who strive to squeeze water out of the rock.
Rice and livestock farming are gathering momentum since those commodities are beginning to command greater value than before.
Traditionally, northerners are known for cattle rearing, but with the menace of nomadic herders, the pendulum is swinging to other areas of livestock production in different parts of the country, especially pig farming.
Pig, which originated from Eurasian Wild boars, can be substituted with cow, for animal protein.
However, religious and cultural beliefs affected, and still affect, pig farming. But this is one profitable area of agriculture that has comparative advantage over other livestock.
Pigs give out more with less input compared to any other livestock. They reproduce geometrically, with as many as 25 piglets in a year, according to some farmers. They are very resilient and have the least mortality rate among livestock’s, that is almost 100 per cent production to supply value.
Today’s domesticated pig has most of the qualities that the modern farmer looks for in livestock, including high profitability, which can entice investors.
According to a pig farmer, Adenike Ayoade, pig farming requires patience and dedication, noting that intending farmers need passion to grow the business.
The gestation period for pig is 115 days, accounting for about three reproductions in a year, she told Financial Street.
“Since I have been doing this business, I have never been broke, because pork is in high demand in Nigeria.
“I have been in this business for about 10 years and I can say categorically that piggery is a very lucrative business and one’s investment can be recouped within a short time,” she said.
Although pig farming has not really picked up in Nigeria like other parts of Africa, the number of small-scale pig farmers is, however, increasing,despite inadequate extension services and the low percentage of investment in agriculture.
A pig geneticist at the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), Ibadan, Dr. Olufunke Oluwole, said that pig rearing could be a money-spinner for farmers, if properly developed.
According to her, pig is one of the most prolific domestic animals, as it can produce between four to 18 piglets compared to one or two in cattle, sheep and goat.
“It has high feed conversion efficiency, matures early and thereby has a short generation interval. It requires small space to start for small scale production.
“It could be started with moderate capital on small-scale production and it could also be reared on large-scale with huge capital. The management practices are simple as it could be managed effectively on small-scale by members of the family.
“The droppings or faeces can be used as manure to improve soil fertility for vegetables. The meat is delicious, soft, tasty and palatable. It’s equally important for agro-based industries for the production of bone meal, blood meal, cooking fat, cosmetics and bristles.”
According to her, pig can be fed with various household wastes such as plantain peel, yam peel, remnant feeds, but very hardy and not easily infected.
“Under the intensive system of management and proper hygiene, rearing of pig doesn’t constitute nuisance (anymore) to the environment,” she added.
Mr. Ikponze Samson, another pig farmer, explained to Financial Street the profitability of pig farming and its potential of reducing unemployment and poverty.
Along with traditional business ideas, pig farming in Nigeria can play an important role in reducing unemployment, poverty and addressing malnutrition among others, he said.
“By raising pigs commercially, you can both fulfil your family nutrition demands and earn some extra cash.
“Pig farming in Nigeria is becoming very popular by the day. It is a wonderful business idea and very profitable. You can get the return of your total investment within a very short time. Pig farming is very easy and pork has huge global popularity which is the main reason the business is increasing in Nigeria.
Samson described pig farming as “a niche and an unusual business”, adding that successful pig farmers enjoy huge rewards.
He said that pig farming had many advantages over other livestock such as cattle and goats.
The advantages, he said, include that reproduction period and faster conversion energy into protein than other livestock.
“Pigs can survive and produce more by consuming little amount of low-quality food; they can also feed on roughage, kitchen garbage and agricultural waste,” he said, urging the government to provide funds for vibrant young farmers to go into the business to create more create job opportunities.
On the benefits of pig farming, Mr. Bola Obajemu,who owns one of the biggest pig farms in Lagos State, told our correspondent that pigs were reared in Bush Waller, but that things changed.
He said statistics in 2015/2016 showed that pork was taking like 36 per cent of the total protein meat consumption all over the world, followed by goat and chicken.
Pigs are now refined, eat healthy and drink clean water because pork producers are now enlightened people, he disclosed, adding that pigs eat what an average chicken eats and the issue of worms are being taken care of by new ways of rearing them.
He advised potential investors: “Pig farming is a full science on its own. It is not business as usual and it is no longer like the way our forefathers used to do it. People must have a start-up fund and learn the business because if you don’t learn, you won’t get it right.”
Pork is one of the most consumed animal proteins across Nigeria. As our population increases with disposable income, the competition to supply Nigerians with wholesome, safe pork by different entrepreneurs who are making inroad into this field of business, also increases.