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Closing the Lagos Cattle Deficit

Nigeria’s population has risen to almost 200 million people, making it the most populous country in Africa. As a result, cities have become progressively larger and wider. Lagos is Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest market. With a population of over 22 million people, the state consumes food worth over N5 trillion annually and over N8 billion monthly. Lagosians eats about 6,000 herds of cattle daily and over 1.8 million herds of cattle annually, accounting for half of all red meat consumed in Nigeria. In the cow industry, there are numerous opportunities.

Nigeria is by far the top livestock producer in Central and West Africa, based on population and capability for animal production, with 25% of the sub-livestock region’s herds. The country’s cattle herds are estimated to number around 16 million head, significantly outnumbering Niger’s (8.7 million), Mali’s (8.2 million), and Chad’s (7 million). However, the Sahel countries have a sizable share of total cow herds, accounting for more than half of all herds. Short-cycle livestock enterprises, estimated at 33.8 million sheep and 175 million poultry birds, augment cattle farming in Nigeria.

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In the midst of 85 and 90 percent of domestic cattle herds are maintained by 8 million itinerant shepherds and farmerherders, the bulk of them of Peul ethnicity, while other groups also herd (Shuwa Arabs, Koyam, Kanuri, Kanembou, Touareg, etc.). Import flows of live animals from Niger, Chad, and Mali are difficult to measure because many animals are “naturalized” at the border, and some are fattened and finished on their route to the ultimate market outlets. The Sahel countries provide a substantial portion of the livestock sold on these marketplaces. A large number of animals are involved in cross-border herd movement during seasonal migration.

Nigeria’s cattle population has doubled since 1981, leading to a rise in clashes over water and grazing land. Photograph: Stefan Heunis/AFP/Getty

The good news is that most Nigerians eat cattle. Beef (meat from cattle) is a popular dish in Nigeria and throughout Africa. That means there are millions of prospective consumers waiting for you if you start this business. You do not have to worry about infections as much in the cattle farming sector because this species of animal is disease-resistant. Cattle can be found all over Nigeria, but they are most prevalent in the country’s northern two-thirds. Seasonal transhumance does occur, but to a lesser extent than in the past.

The current cattle population in Nigeria is estimated to be 15.3 million, with breeds such as Boran, Muturu, Red Peul zebu, Red Fulani, Djafoun, Rahadji, Fellata and Foulata, White Fulani, Red Bororo, Sokoto Gudali, Adamawa Gudali, Wadara, Azawak, Muturu, Keteku, N’Dama, and Kuri – all indigenous to Nigeria. The phenotypic and performance characteristics of the beef cow breeds Boran, Muturu, and N’Dama, which are extensively spread in southern Nigeria, are detailed. This animal is well-built but massive, standing between 140 and 150 cm tall at the withers. It’s well-suited to lengthy marches and, as a result, transhumant pastoral systems.

Instead, most Nigerians rely on the country’s roads to transport themselves and their goods. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, roads account for 90% of Nigeria’s transportation sector. While some Nigerian roads are well-paved, many of the country’s major commerce routes are riddled with potholes or surrounded with security checkpoints that some travelers claim are simply bribe-taking lanes. Due to the significant spatial separation of production and consumption areas, as well as other ancillary factors, there has been a gap in the supply of cattle and its products. Furthermore, most livestock/cattle suppliers in Nigeria do not use appropriate logistics management, which has a detrimental impact on meat/cattle delivery, inventory, and profit performance.

Cow Market in Lagos

The value of cattle and livestock transactions in Lagos State exceeds N328 billion. Every day, a large number of food animals are delivered to the Agege abattoir and lairage to be processed into safe meat for human consumption. These animals are usually delivered to the abattoir in Lorries and traveled across large distances for several days to reach their destinations. The Lagos State abattoir, Oko-Oba, is said to be Nigeria’s largest, with roughly 3,000 cattle slaughtered every day. “The official record of his association was roughly 1,200 cattle between Monday and Wednesday, and 1,500 cattle between Thursday and Saturday,” said Saminu Tanko Sadiq, secretary of the United Butchers Association (UBA).

Kara Cattle Market . It is the number one spot to buy Goats and Cows in Lagos, Nigeria with a large number of livestock owners gathering here daily. Photo: YouTube | Ulagam Sutrum Tamilan

“Lagos and other states along the transport route collect about N35,000 in revenue per head of cattle,” said Secretary to the State Government (SSG) Bashir Ahmad last year. “The Lagos State Government makes N10,000 on each killed cow, in addition to other earnings generated through the cattle value chain,” he says.

Various animal markets have sprung up across Lagos as a result of rising consumer demand for meat. Under the Lagos-Ibadan expressway bridge, the Kara Market is a collection of livestock markets. Kara is the best place in Lagos to buy cows because it has so many merchants and cattle. Northern Hausa and Fulani traders dominate the centuries-old Kara Market. The flourishing Onyingbo Market is located in the Yaba axis of Lagos. This market has a sister market in Iddo, and they are to blame for the strange traffic jams in the Onyingbo area. Various goods, primarily food and cattle, are sold at low prices on this market. Although not as cheap as things offered on the Ketu Market, they are nonetheless reasonably priced.

Ikeja open market, Lagos, Nigeria.
Everyone is friendly and smiling there! Despite boiling hot temperature you see hard working people everywhere.. Photo: MBrus | Flickr

Stock breeders, buyers, market intermediaries, drovers, cross-border handlers, truck hauliers, herders who fatten animals for market in the vicinity of final markets (e.g. Lagos), butchers, retailers, and rotisseurs are among the many specific professions that are mobilized throughout the value chain, usually informally. Organ recovery, bone recovery, and hide recovery activities have steadily grown concentrated in numerous Lagos neighborhoods near slaughterhouses.

The Obstacles

Many animals that arrived dead in transportation were condemned and burned in Lagos, causing significant losses to cattle traders, butchers, and the general public. Overcrowding, protracted transportation without rest, stress, poor access road networks, and traders not adhering to the minimum space necessary for animal transportation in order to boost their profit margins were some of the factors that contributed to these transportation-related deaths. If the issue of proper food animal transportation is not addressed, more food animals will be lost during transportation.

Bridging the Chasm

Abisola Olusanya, the Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, said last year in an interview with Channels Television that “the state consumes over 6,000 heads of cattle daily and over 1.8 million heads of cattle annually.” She said that, despite being the country’s greatest consumer of red meat, Lagos does not produce it, and that the state government is attempting to establish ranches to make red meat more accessible to Lagos residents. “The state was working on harnessing sectors where it has comparative advantage to further grow the Lagos economy,” Abisola said.

The shipment of cattle by train from Gusau, in the north, to Lagos, has been hailed as a watershed moment in the country’s efforts to rebuild its railway system. In the next years, Lagosians are projected to spend less on cattle and livestock. Nigeria has acquired livestock carriages to transport cattle along the Kano-Lagos narrow gauge railway, with Lagosians spending N1.6 billion every day on 8000 cattle from the north. Refrigerated wagons were frequently used to purchase tomatoes and other perishable produce.

Many businesses in Lagos are taking advantage of this demand. Farmcrowdy Meat Hubs, Lekki Farms, and Livestock 247 are the major players in this market. Within Nigeria, Farmcrowdy Meat Hubs operates many agro verticals, such as animal processing, farming, and agro-retailing. The enterprise is one of Lagos’ and Nigeria’s major meat processors, with a daily capacity of 120 to 200 bulls. Lekki Farms is a leading live animal supply company. It sells, slaughters, cleans, and transports livestock all around Lagos. While Livestock 247 is an online livestock platform that fosters collaboration among all important stakeholders in the livestock value chain.

A public-private cooperation is required because it will assure greater cattle production and supply in the state. In order to promote government reforms and sanitization of the red meat value chain, more private sector partnerships are needed to develop feedlots in the state for cattle rearing and fattening. The collaboration would boost value chain production, create jobs across value chains, standardize value chain operations, and boost the state’s GDP.

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