A fish farmer
Fish farming in Nigeria has become a lucrative business creating jobs for the unemployed. Ebere Nwiro writes
Nigerians are large consumers of fish and it remains one of the main products consumed in terms of animal protein. Study has shown that only around 50 per cent of demand for fish is currently being met by local supply. The fishery sector is estimated to contribute 3.5 per cent of Nigeria’s Cross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides direct and indirect employment to over six million people.
Despite the popularity of farming in Nigeria, the fish farming industry can best be described as being at the infant stage when compare to the large market potential for its production and marketing. This is mainly due to unavailability of fingerlings owing to lack of adequate infrastructure for hatcheries for fingerling production.
The Federal Government stated recently that Nigeria is saving N300 million annually from the substitution of imported fish feeds, with an estimate of 25 per cent of the 45,000 metric tonnes imported into the country. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, stated this while speaking at the Ministerial Platform in commemoration of the 2012 Democracy Day celebration and the first anniversary of President Goodluck Jonathan administration in Abuja.
Adesina, who revealed that the country spends at least N117.7 billion annually on the importation of fish feeds, said four major investors in the feeds production had been identified to increase capacity to meet local demands.
He identified the investors as Grand Cereals in Jos, Plateau State; Durante in Oyo State; Wonder Feeds in Kaduna State, and Multifeeds, an Israeli company; all of which he said had declared their interest in the massive feeds’ production.
The minister also stated that government has completed the training of 120 potential investors in the new all male Tilapia production technology to improve total yield.
The minister explained that the present administration, was diversifying the production of fish from artisan to aquaculture and explore commercial opportunities.
He said that government had planned adequate production of fingerlings and juvenile fish to bridge the supply gap in the national demand and to produce 1.25 billion of fish ‘seed’ per year; 400,000 metric tonnes of fish feeds, and the development of brood-stock bank.
Adesina noted with delight that a high volume of local fish feed producers in the 36 states and Abuja, in collaboration with the Nigeria Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR), had been achieved.
Mrs. Tayo Alabi, Botanist and researcher with the Nigerian Institute of Oceanographic and Marine Research (NIOMR) revealed the inability of Nigerians to produce enough fish for consumption had led to massive fish importation.
“Nigeria spends about N50 billion on fish importation annually to meet its yearly fish demand of 1.5million tones, but we can only boast of producing 500, 000 tonnes of fish which is only one third of the fish needed in the country annually”, she had said. Adding, the importation of fish from foreign countries when they could be reared in Nigeria had adverse effects on the country’s foreign reserve.
In February this year, Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) at the 25th anniversary of the annual south west zonal research extension farmers input linkage system (REFILS) workshop held in Ibadan disclosed through the Commissioner for Agriculture and Cooperatives, Prince Gbolahan Lawal, the extent the state government had gone to make agric tra nsformation agenda a success.
He disclosed also the Lagos State government is targeting 500, 000 jobs in the fisheries sector in the next five years, this he said will be actualized through aquaculture, an area the govt intends to increase fish production to one million metric tonnes.
Fish farming has been proven to generate employment directly and indirectly in terms of people employed in the production of fishing output and other allied businesses. It also generates income for all categories of people involved in fish farming and thus contributes to the national income.
This was the case of Mr. Femi Owopute, formerly a banker by profession, now a fish farmer. Speaking to THISDAY, Owopute disclosed he decided to go into fish farming because he realised he wasn’t making enough savings as a banker at the end of the day. “As a worker then I woke up very early as early as 3am so that I can leave the house early enough to get to the office before 7am.
Going to the office on the Island from the mainland was very hectic for me, by the time I close from work by 6pm I get home by 11pm sometimes by 12am to wake by 3am and start the day all over again. There was no rest for me at the end of the month I calculate how much I spend on transport and feeding I see I have nothing left.”
He disclosed he lived like this for three years before he decided to start something for himself “I had passion for fish farming, I told myself if I wanted to start up a business I would love to venture into fish farming.
To run this business successfully is not easy; I had to quit my job because it requires a lot of time. I have been in this business for 2years now and I can say I don’t have any regrets so far, he disclosed. But speaking on the challenges, he said
“There are lots of challenges in this business, finance is my greatest challenge.
“I remember when I started I had no capital because I couldn’t save as a result of how much I spend daily on transportation, I started with as low as N10, 000 though today my business has grown I still spend so much on other area but not as much as when compared to livestock”, he said. When compared with livestock, investigation shows it requires less space, time, money and has a higher feed conserving rate.
On the factors militating against fish farmng, he said “Water, light, weather and feedings of the fingerlings are of great importance at the beginning.
These fishes require lots of attention and feeding at the initial stage but this becomes difficult when there is no light for pumping of water and money to buy their feed”, he said, adding “when the weather is very hot, most of them die and most of them tend to feed on themselves just to survive,” Stating “aside from these challenges, the gains are much”.
Major constraints to fish farming were identified to be those of environmental impacts of aquaculture operations that are water pollution, inadequate supply of fingerlings, inadequate information and feed supply.
It is therefore recommended that more people should be encouraged to participate in the business so as to increase their income. Also Femi suggests there should be an association of Catfish Farmers, who will organize trainings, workshops and seminars for their members so that they could have access to improved methods and technologies of Catfish production.