Nigeria needs infrastructure to take advantage of the global aquaculture tilapia set to hit $ 25 billion in 2029, a fisheries expert, Prof. Anetekhai Martin, has said.
The market stood at $13 billion last year. Tilapia, with its rich nutritional contents such as Omega 3 fatty acids and high protein is a key seafood in Nigeria after catfish and shrimp.
Martin noted that while there is a great demand for tilapia, a number of challenges exist. These included increasingly expensive transportation, lack of credit, limited display space and generally poor market infrastructure.
He stressed that limited transportation infrastructure impedes greater production.
He pointed out that Nigeria is lagging behind in tilapia production as most cage farms, reservoirs, ponds grow tilapia mostly.
The country has small scale pond farmers who find commercial feeds too expensive, so they compound their own feed on-farm, using alternative feed sources like cocoa pod husk, palm kernel cake and copra cake.
While most of the ingredients used are proven to be viable, they are not produced under strict bio-secure conditions, and naturally affect the final product.
The farmers are responsible for transporting their feed and fingerlings from the hatcheries and purchasing centres to their farms.
Apart from adding to their operational costs it provides a further incentive for farmers to produce their own feed and significant levels of stress-induced mortality occur as a result of carrying fingerlings over long distances.
There is clearly a weak link in the value chain. Nurseries and supply vans are needed to provide better services to the many pond farmers who are beyond the easy reach of the hatcheries.
The presence of wild tilapia and foreign strains, , also presents a significant health challenge.
At a forum of Food and Agriculture Writers Association of Nigeria (FAWON) in Lagos, the National President, Tilapia and Aquaculture Developers Association of Nigeria (TADAN) Mr. Remi Ahmed said tilapia provides a nutritious and inexpensive protein, which plays a key role in alleviating nutrient deficiency.
He noted, however, that cost of power and others are serious challenges, so this is not encouraging.
Ahmed canvassed ban on imported tilapia to protect local aquaculture producers. He said the potential exists to increase tilapia production significantly.
However, for this to be achieved, the local production system needs to be improved and greater emphasis placed on establishing best-practices.
Such a move would help to bring greater market credibility, improve margins, and ensure that a more consistent quality product is available.
Vice-President, TADAN, Mr. Nurudeen Tiamiu, said fish was an important source of protein. For this reason, the production of fisheries products through aqua farming has become important to the challenge of securing food resources.
He observed that there are some obstacles that must be overcome in order to obtain a stable supply of fisheries products using aqua farming.
For example, there is the problem of the need to obtain feed. Tiamiu said that the government should collaborate with real stakeholders in the sector to fashion out a roadmap to develop farmed fish in the country.
He noted that tilapia farming has emerged as a significant component of global fish supplies.
Tiamiu said that the aquaculture sector had been besieged by people who were not known fish farmers, making and taking decisions on behalf of the real time producers.
The global supply of tilapia, according to data, is estimated to hit 6.8 million metric tons (MT) this year.