Abuja – The Minister of State for Agriculture, Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri, on Tuesday said establishment of cattle ranches in the country would save Nigeria 5 billion dollars annually.
He disclosed this while making a presentation at a one-day public hearing organized by the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Committee on National Security and Intelligence, and said that the amount was currently being spent on importation of dairy products.
The hearing was organized to seek the root causes of regular clashes between herdsmen and farmers with a view to finding solutions to the problem.
The minister said that there was a huge market and opportunity in the diary industry, adding that cattle merchants could tap into the opportunity by embracing modern rearing methods.
He said that statistics showed that the nation only had about 19 million cows, and that government planned to import semen from Europe for female cows in Nigeria.
“There is this huge opportunity in this sector. For milk powder alone we spend 1.3 billion dollars; for dairy products, milk products, we spend as much as 5 billion dollars a year.
“Mr President has directed that we should liaise with state governments because the Federal Government alone cannot do it.
“We have contacted 19 states’ governors and nine states have already donated 5,000 hectares each for us to start the creation of these ranches.
“We had in the past about 415 grazing reserves; out of that, about 144 were gazetted and the rest not gazetted.
“Those grazing routes, most of them no longer exist. They have been encroached upon and grazing reserves without grasses is useless,” he said.
According to the minister, Nigerian cows produce an average of 1 litre of milk per day as opposed to cows in Brazil and Saudi Arabia that produce between 30 to 40 litres daily.
This, he said, would be addressed by establishing ranches which ensured that cows were restricted to one place and not made to trek hundreds of kilometres.
He said that other facilities in the ranches would include schools, boreholes, small dams, veterinary services and other amenities.
Lokpobiri, however, said that the nation must increase the number of cows it had which was why the importation of semen would be necessary.
“We are thinking about how to increase the productivity in Nigerian cows.
“Most of the female cows, out of the less than 19 million we have, cannot conceive because of the long movement from one area to the other.
“So, we have resolved to import semen from Europe so that we can do artificial insemination so as to increase the productivity of cows. This is something that is done globally,” he said. (NAN)