Nigeria is a very large country with wide geographical area, enormous resources and high population advantage. We are well blessed in Nigeria with high population and resources. There is no gainsaying in the fact that Nigerian Rabbit Industry of year 2017 is not comparable to the current population of Rabbit Farmers/Breeders in the industry. The opportunity of guaranteed off-taking of rabbit’s weaners and wastes has actually served as a catalyst and key success factor in the rapid growth of Nigerian Rabbit Industry.

Generally, what farmers need is an offtaker of their farm harvest and immediate receipt of money. Kenya had also experienced what we are currently experiencing in Nigeria but I don’t pray for our farmers to face what they eventually faced in the hand of offtakers. The Kenyan Rabbit Industry was seriously booming at a time when someone was buying urine and rabbit from them on credit for onward sales to a company. After sometime, farmers were not paid by the offtaker. This is one of the reasons Bella discourages credit sales and purchases of rabbits from farmers. Some farmers in Kenya were wrecked by this occurrence till today and the offtaker eventually changed name. We don’t pray for our farmers to experience this awful occurrence.

This notwithstanding, the importance of off-taking can never be over-emphasized. Ghana Cocoa Industry is growing from strength to strength as a result of government approved offtakers like Olam and the likes. Cocoa farmers are always encouraged and motivated to produce more and more because of market assurance. In East Africa, coffee farmers in Rwanda are also enjoying the advantage of off-taking and as small as Rwanda is in land area, off-taking of coffee is making the economy to be booming and the coffee farmers are already negotiating with their neighbouring country, Democratic Republic of Congo to grant them access to their land for coffee.

In Nigerian Poultry Industry, Amo Farm is also one of the companies that give opportunity to poultry farmers to supply them chicken after grooming period just like Bella Buyback Scheme. Nigeria is highly blessed with high population and resources. Nigerian Rabbit Industry will experience an unimaginable business boom if we can have more Rabbit Feeds Producers and more offtakers of rabbit, urine and feaces. Nigeria is a country with over 70 million people. As at today, we are yet to get up to 2 million commercial rabbit farmers in Nigeria. The presence of more offtakers and feeds producers in the industry  will surely boost rabbit business and there will be more awareness. Can you imagine how booming it will be if rabbit farming can get just 20 % of current poultry farmers, pig farmers and fish farmers in Nigeria?

We need to take rabbitry to the next level by expansion but farmers cannot expand if there is no guaranteed market. It will be an unwise business decision for a farmer to invest millions in an agricultural sector when there is no assurance of buyer; such business decision is more or less like throwing money into the sea. We need big players with good financial resources to compliment what Bella is doing in the aspect of offtaking. Bella’s joy is to see the success of Nigerian Rabbit Industry without fear of competition.

In Nigerian poultry industry, there are several commercial poultry feeds producers and they  have a strong union. The market is even too big for a feed producer to manage. None of the poultry feeds producers has the capacity to meet the daily feeds requirement by all poultry birds in Nigeria. I could vividly remember when Olam came to Nigerian poultry feeds business with Chikum Feeds. The whole industry was shaking and trembling based on the use of price for market penetration and scheming, granting of huge credit sales to distributors and depot but after few months, the company realized that the country is too big to monopolize. How many people now hear of the aggressiveness again? Everything is normalised now. Distributors and depot owners took the advantage and most of them refused to pay back because of Nigerian mentality of free funds. If we really want Nigerian Rabbit Industry to grow bigger and people to have confidence in the industry, we need more guaranteed markets in different parts of Nigeria,  at this developing stage, more people should look for market and commence offtaking of rabbits.

You cannot be an offtaker if you don’t have market of your own.  We need people who have market for rabbits and their perceived wastes to be offtakers if there is financial resources to pay farmers. Truly, the resources to be an offtaker is not a child’s play but it is doable if there is market and the will to help. If more people come to the industry for rabbit farming based on offtaking, they also need availability of quality feeds for their rabbits. Therefore, more people should also invest in commercial feeds production. If there are more feed producers and more reliable offtakers with instant cash payment to farmers, the industry will experience unprecedented growth.

As far as Bella is concerned, initially, we had plan in 2018 to be off-taking from just 350 farmers but with more resources we are currently offtaking from over 1000 farmers in Nigeria. Almost every week, some stakeholders in Ghana are inviting our company to begin off-taking of rabbits from Ghana and selling of Bella Feeds in Ghana. I put the requests on hold based on several factors within and outside my control. As at today, based on our current financial capability, we are looking at offtaking from just 5,000 farmers in Nigeria. Our plan is to open a database for all regular users of Bella Feeds and assign Customer ID. We are going to open special groups for all of them purposely for off-taking from them. Farmers without the registration number have no business with Bella and our approved collection centres.

In all sincerity based on the current situation and resources, if all the farmers in Nigeria turn to Rabbit Farming, Bella cannot offtake from all of them and cannot meet feeds production for their animals. We are okay with 5000 customers for now and to serve them diligently. If we have more capability in future, we will give room for more market share. My question is what should happen to other farmers outside the customer base of Bella? This is the reason for farmers to spend quality time to research for market and become offtakers. Farmers that have market should assist other farmers looking for market. Recently, a new cold room operator in Lagos was introduced to one of Bella directors to get 500 pieces of broiler chicken; we are also in discussion on rabbit meat, grasscutter and goat meat. What matters most is good name. Always guard it by operating with the highest level of integrity. I use this opportunity to call for more offtakers and Rabbits Feeds Producers in Nigeria. The industry can grow through peaceful collective efforts and business collaboration.

I wish us Happy Easter Celebration!! As we celebrate, let us observe Social Distancing.

Mr Samson writes from Bella Rabbit World, Ogere-Remo, Ogun State

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