Local fish farmers bemoan challenges hampering growth
Despite the country’s marine endowment, manpower and conducive climate, a whopping sum of N97bn is spent annually for fish imports, which is hampering growth of the sector.
According to research, the demand for fish increased approximately from 1.392 million tons to 1.889 million tons between 2004-2012, with only 20 per cent of this demand met locally.
Based on the great business opportunities in aquaculture, experts claim Nigeria has the potential of 3.2 million tons fish production with further room for expansion, but due to several challenges, the growth in the sector has been stunted over the years. Then, what are the challenges?
National Chairman, Fisheries Cooperative Federation of Nigeria, the apex body of fisheries cooperative societies, unions and federation in states, Evang. Anthony A. Ashagye, told The Guardian that the sector can solve 70 per cent of the country’s problem. He listed the challenges to include; high cost of fish feeds, problem of sourcing fingerlings, acquisition of land, inadequate training, lack of financial support and lack of modern fish markets.
While noting that aquaculture is growing at a faster rate and the challenges getting bigger, he said the high cost of feeds, is caused by total dependence on feed importation, adding that about 80 per cent of the feeds are imported. “This is one of the things government should have done, by establishing feed mills. We have raw materials for the establishment of feed mills, but it was not considered by the past administration. So, the cost of feed is taking the highest budget in aquaculture.
“The second one is the challenge of acquiring fingerlings, it starts from the grow stock, the present system relies on the little effort of our fish farmers because if you don’t get a good fish breed, the fish will not grow and at the end you may not get anything at all, the supply of fingerlings is a big problem to the industry. Acquisition of land is another problem, except you want to go into fish culture, which we have not started in Nigeria, except you want to use surface tank, if you want to establish fish pond you need land, land acquisition is a major challenge.”
Ashagye stressed that adequate training on fish breeding for farmers, will assist them to be self sufficient in fish breeding and management of their farms.
“Taking a critical look at Agriculture, one can easily access a rice farm if it’s 10 hectares of land or more, it could easily be ascertained. That also goes for livestock, the number of the animals can be counted, but for aquaculture, the fish grows in the water and nobody sees it, fish farmers are underrated, that’s why we don’t get assistance in terms of loans.
“The contribution of this sector is immense to the growth of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The Federal Government recently launched a roadmap, the Green Revolution, it has enumerated ways to encourage aquaculture, we believe in the document, but when the stakeholders are carried along, it would achieve the best. We have communicated with the minister on the way out, if we can be carried along, the aim of the roadmap will be attained.”
He called on the present government to do everything to assist fish farmers to increase their capacity.