Poultry farmers in Akwa Ibom State have now been forced to import day old chicks at N600 each following the failure of the government-owned Akwa Prime Hatchery to produce.
The multi-billion naira Akwa Prime Hatchery and Poultry, inaugurated by Governor Udom Emmanuel' administration in 2016 with so much fanfare, was built to create employment, support poultry farmers and contribute to food self-sufficiency in the state.
However, the desire of government to raise 200,000 broilers and 50,000 laying stock birds by June 2019 has failed as the farm now only runs a poultry and sells frozen chicken.
Our correspondent, who visited the facility at Mbiaya Uruan, Uruan LGA, observed that the farm was bereft of activity.
Our correspondent was, however, denied access into the facility as one of the staff said the top managers were not available to talk to Niger Delta Trust.
Those who spoke told our correspondent said only the poultry section of the facility was functional and even that not at full capacity.
A staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "We do not have day-old chicks at the moment, we have frozen chickens in sufficient quantities".
Some of the poultry farmers, who spoke with our correspondent, said they were not happy with the challenges they face bringing day-old-chicks from Kaduna, Enugu and Ibadan.
They wondered why they had to import chicks from outside the state while there is a government-owned hatchery.
They said poultry business was becoming expensive with a bag of feed in Uyo now selling at N6,500.
Mr Etidobong Inyang, who has been in the business for 12 years, said it was the first time that farmers were suffering such harsh economic factors.
"For the 12 years that I have been in poultry farming, this is the first time that poultry farmers are so harshly affected by both economic and other factors.
"Unfortunately, nobody is available to offer any explanation. Farmers have been left at the whims and caprices of owners of the means of production; there doesn't seem to be any government regulation of the poultry industry.
"How, do you explain a situation where you wake up suddenly and the price of a day old chick is N600, a bag of feed as N6,000, and in a state that government claims to be pursuing agriculture as one of its cardinal programmes.
"For instance, in 2016, the government said it has constructed a hatchery and the intention was to ensure availability of day-old chicks at affordable price to farmers, but, quite unfortunately, effort has not yielded any tangible result.
"Farmers are still getting their day-old chicks from Ibadan, Kaduna, and Enugu. So the question now is where is the hatchery?
"One would have expected that farmers would be buying the chicks at humane prices, but from all indications the acclaimed hatchery is a ruse.
"The day-old chicks we have in the market are Amo, Chi, Sayed and Chikun. Which one is the Akwa Prime Hatchery producing?"
Another farmer, Mrs. Eka Ukpong, lamented the loss she suffered when she ordered day-old chicks from Ibadan. She said she was excited about the hatchery in the state but her hope had been dashed.
"I recall the amount of loss I recorded the last time I ordered day-old-chicks from Ibadan.
"I was excited just like other farmers by the idea of having a hatchery in the state, but the hope has been dashed as there are no chicks several years after the commissioning of the farm," she said.
Efforts to reach the Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Glory Edet, to comment on the issue failed as she did not respond to phone calls and text messages sent to her as at the time of filing this report.
However when the Head of Human Resource at Akwa Prime Hatchery and Poultry Limited, Mr Emmanuel Ekeng, was reached on phone after several failed attempts, he declined to comment.
He said, "I am very busy. If you want to see me, book for an appointment."