Having reached a consensus on the need to establish cattle ranches across Nigeria, the debate should now move on to the industrial requirements of a modern livestock industry.
Let us all hope that when our mega cattle ranches are fully operational, we dramatically increase the number of cows in Nigeria from the current 20m to say the 189m produced in India today.
This expansion in output will automatically present a new set of challenges that will need to be addressed. Will the Fulani be the harbingers of Nigeria’s industrial revolution?
First of all, we need to process the proceeds of this livestock, so there has to be a dramatic increase in the number of dairy plants, leather factories, abattoirs, meat cold storage facilities, refrigerated lorries, etc. We have to step up our manufacturing capability big time over the next two years.
Livestock transportation facilities also need to be upgraded. Is there one functional cattle railway wagon in Nigeria today?
If we were to open six mega ranches in say Niger, Borno, Taraba, Yobe, Bauchi and Kaduna states, all of them need to be linked by a commercial railway network. This network then needs to extend to major marketers like Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Enugu, Benin, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, etc.
All this requires a massive industrialisation programme as we have to manufacture railway wagons, rail tracks, refrigerated trucks, leather processing equipment, milking machines, etc.
Personally, what excites me the most are these mega livestock ships, specifically manufactured to ferry cattle, sheep, goats etc across oceans. I look forward to Nigeria becoming the manufacturing capital of such vessels. Just imagine how many jobs we would create in Nigeria if everyone in the world ordered their livestock ships from us.
As is always the case with shipping, you locate your shipyard on the coast, so I long to see the world’s largest livestock shipbuilding yard in the Niger Delta. Nigerians need to set themselves the goal of achieving this in the next 10 years.
I am perplexed as to why Innoson Motors has not stepped into this debate yet. By now, the company should have delivered a prototype of a unique refrigerated trailer or truck that can serve as a mobile abattoir. Such vehicles should be electric-powered, with maybe solar panels on their roofs.
As part of an ambitious and unprecedented drive to fight protein deficiency in Nigeria, we should step up meat consumption too. To cut costs, I would like to see railway abattoirs whereby livestock are slaughtered as they leave ranches and then butchered on trains en route to markets. By the time a train arrived at Abuja from Mokwa for instance, the cattle should be in small pieces ready to be distributed to say restaurants.
Nigerians need to learn how to be innovative. For instance, is there any livestock-specific shipping container anywhere in the world today? Why don’t we show the world how it can be done? As people, we simply need to elevate our level of thinking.