By Oluseyi Taiwo-Oguntuase
Lagos– Fish farmers in the country have lamented over the high cost of inputs, especially feeds which has forced a lot of them in the industry to wind down.
Some of the stakeholders who spoke in a telephone interview with INDEPENDENT lamented that the rate at which fish farms are been shut down in the country might stall the country’s drive towards the attainment of self-sufficiency in fish production.
The farmers expressed sadness over the astronomical increase in the cost of fish feeds as many are now abandoning the trade for other ventures in order to survive.
Those who spoke with INDEPENDENT said feeds that were sold for about N3,800 in 2016 has shut up to N5,500, while others sold for N4500 last year now cost N7500.
Nurudeen Tiamiyu, the National President, Tilapia Aquaculture Developers Association of Nigeria (TADAN) in a chat said most of their members are exiting the business, saying that in the last 12 months the numbers of farmers that have halted production is higher than the number of entrants into the business.
“Most of our members are exiting the business, over the last one year now we have had more farmers that have stopped production, than those that have come into the business.
The cost of doing the business is higher and the sales are not going up; it has dropped drastically.
Tiamiyu, who is also the Managing Director of Amolese Aquaculture Nigeria Limited said it was unfortunate that the government has failed to put an end to smuggled fish products into the country, saying that bulk of the smuggled tilapia comes into the country through the land borders of Cotonou and Seme.
“These smuggled tilapia are imported from China and it comes to Nigeria at a cost that is even lower than the Nigerian production cost and tilapia is on the banned list of fishery products that are forbidden for importation into Nigeria. It is surprising that the species still find its way into the market and government stood aloof doing nothing about the danger it poses to local production and health of the citizens,”
Adeola Elliot, former chairman, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Agro and Allied group noted that high cost of fish feed is a major problem facing fish farming in the country.
According to him, this situation had increased the plight of fish farmers in the country who depended solely on importation, adding that some efforts to produce locally have failed to match internal quality.
“The plight of fish farmers have increased with the scarcity of fish feeds as we depend majorly on importation. Some people are trying to produce feeds locally but it is difficult to meet the international standard. This is because we do not have the right machinery for fish feed production.
“Many fish farmers have been compelled to improvise fish feeds through the use of garri, cassava and noodles to feed catfish. There is nothing people are not using and this is very dangerous and not healthy for human health,” he said.
He said the situation was critical as the nation was still engaged in fish farming at the subsistence level.
Bamidele Onibalusi, Chief Executive Officer of Denoli Farms said despite the increase in feeds prices of catfish still remain the same, stressing that the 2mm of fish feed sold for N5, 500 has increased to N9, 100.
He said as a result of this increment in prices of feeds lot of farmers have closed down because they feel the business is no more profitable to them.
Aside increment in prices of feeds another challenge according to Onibalusi is poor access to credit, lack of direct investment, lack of the requisite technical skills and unavailability of good quality and moderately priced fish feed.
Stephen Habib, Managing Director Kingsfarm NigeriaLimited said the increase in the cost of raw materials for the production of the feed has contributed to the increase in the prices of fish feed, he said the increase in price is about 100 percent that the increment in price cannot be transferred to the cost sales because it will actually be out of reach for Nigerians.
He said this has had an adverse effect on fish farmers in the country and it is really eating deep into their productivity.
On the way out, Habib suggested a reduction in the cost of inputs, mass production from the upstream and effect development of marine technology for the country.
Also identifying electricity provision as one other challenge, Habib said a large number of feeds consumed by fish farmers in Nigeria are imported from Denmark and Europe.
“We have various water resources that we can tap into, there are some people using vessels, they get the fishes, they dry them and turn them to fish meal and if we can do that locally it will bring down the cost of fish meal locally.
“We have the resource, the stock resource is there, it is only for us to tap into it, some countries do not have this resources that we have; they leave their own continental shelf to other country’s to come and fish. I am aware of the people who come to our own continental shelf with vessels to fish because we have a very good breed of fishes there, the only problem we have is we need the energy to drive it,” he said.
Tiamiyu in his view said the way out is for government to make sure that this farm produce is not imported and also fish farmers should have access to a single digit or maximum of five per cent interest rate, saying that these measures would force down the cost of fish feeds.
“Government needs to re-examine the cost of feed alongside feed materials and the port charges for on feed meal as well as raw materials for the feeds. It will reduce the cost. If the production cost can come down and the farmers can buy at a cheaper rate, the better for us,” he said.
Elliot noted that there is need to get research institutes, departments of agriculture in the country’s universities to contribute meaningfully towards moving the agricultural sector forward.
“It is time for the government to really come up with agricultural policy and not just policy; there must be implementation. You must get all the Universities of Agriculture working, contribute towards research in agriculture.
“All those research institutes like FIIRO, NOTAP and other organisations that are established to help industries and agriculture, it is the time they should get them to work and contribute. Look at NOTAP if they can come up with the right formulae for feed, then we can have seedling companies that would be producing seeds,” he added.
He also said these institutions should work with farmers.
“We are pleading with the government that putting a policy in place the next agenda is to make sure it is implemented and get it to work. The universities must live up to expectations by making meaningful contributions. We have the department of agriculture, they have to add value, we should buy their research findings at a reasonable cost, that is where subsidy comes in, the government can subsidise the research results and it will be put to use. These organisations that are for research should work with us.”
However, he urged the federal and the state governments to give proper attention to the implementation of agricultural policies, stressing that until there is agriculture policy and design as it was in the pre-oil era that is when the nation will get the desired result.
“Until there is agriculture policy and design as it was prior to the discovery of crude oil, there was integration, the government was involved and all hands were on the deck because that was the only source of revenue for the country, everybody was involved then. That was why we achieved results then.”