By Oluseyi Taiwo-Oguntuase
Lagos – The National Vice President of Tilapia Aquaculture Developers Association of Nigeria (TADAN) ,Tiamiyu Nurudeen, in an interview with Daily Independent said that farmers who venture into the business, especially tilapia fish farming are capable of fetching about 35 to 40 per cent returns on investment.
He advised Nigerians who want to venture into the business to start small depending on their financial capacity, stressing that one must know the nitty-gritty of the business before venturing into it.
“In venturing into any business, you have to start small. N1million is an investment, N100million investment is an investment but first, we need to understand the nitty-gritty of the business in terms of the market which is important. So, you need to build that market by starting small.
“An investment of N500,000 could be regarded as a starting base, so anything below that will come with the issue of scale of production which will now make your cost of production very high. With the scale of N500,000 you can actually start a tilapia farm and grow to N100million investment in a couple of years,” he added.
Correcting a wrong perception about tilapia farming as an unreliable business, Nurudeen explained that that has to change as various training and enlightenments are going on to teach people on best practices.
“When people say tilapia farming is a delicate business, this is because they never understood the business. A fish feed company Aller Aqua for some years now has been training fish farmers. With this training, you will understand that it is easier for farmers to learn from experienced hands.
“With the various training by experts across the country, farmers have improved in the aquaculture practices and people now have a better understanding of how to tender and nurture tilapia. So, with this farmers are getting more informed in terms of how to get the best aquaculture practices to raise tilapia on a sustainable level,” he added.
Educating would-be tilapia farmers on inherent dangers on this species of fish, Nurudeen identified up-boiling in the dam as one of the major challenges fish farmers encounter in raising tilapia.
“In the dams where you have big water bodies there is what we call up-boiling where the underneath of the water body comes up, but we have not had very frequent occurrences like that in Nigeria but sometimes this year, we had an occurrence similar to that last year but because of the fact that there is insurance in place to cushion the effect on the farmers, it did not affect much”.
He urged farmers to take up an insurance policy and ensure payment of premium, saying this will serve as a buffer for natural disasters.
He, however, lamented that despite government policy on the ban of importation of catfish and tilapia, specifically, truckloads of smuggled tilapia still find their ways into the Nigerian markets.
“As long as we are getting this cheap import coming in, the tilapia fish farm in Nigeria will never competitive because the basic challenge has to do with pricing. This fish that is coming from China come through the Benin Republic, it comes into Nigeria in truckloads, in containers and no tariff is paid. So, they are selling as cheap as possible to kill the local industry,” he added.
Regrettably, he said Nigerian farmers are having low sales because people are getting cheaper fish smuggled into the country and no one has raised concern over the sources of the unwholesome fish.
“An average Nigerian wants to eat fish but he is less concerned where the fish comes from. The cheap cost becomes the basic consideration against health implications.
“These species imported from China are rejected fishes that cannot be exported into Europe or American markets because of the issue of growth hormones and the very bad water conditions where these fishes are raised in volumes can hamper the health of people but Nigerian are less concerned.”
Nurudeen who is also the Managing Director of Amolese Aquaculture Nigeria Limited explains that the development is responsible for poor sales recorded by local fish farmers that battles to survive against imported fish.
However, he called on the government to develop the political will to stem the menace of tilapia fish smuggling into the country.
This, according to him, can be realized if the government can break into warehouses and cold rooms identified as stock for the items like they did to rice importation.
“There are cold rooms stores where you have smuggled tilapia. If that commences and sustained then the Nigerian public and the Nigerian farmers can have a mutual relationship in terms of producing fish and selling to the final consumers”.
“Tilapia and catfish are banned food items. This is because there fish farms in Nigeria that takes and produces these for local consumption.
Unfortunately, the imported species is everywhere in the market. Go to Ijora market; all the cold rooms are fully stocked with banned tilapia smuggled into the country by traders.
“Government knows where Ijora market is, why has it become difficult for them to break into the market, burst the warehouses like it was with imported rice.
He emphasized: “Why has it become difficult to visit the Ijora market where you have the large cold rooms where they store these smuggled tilapia fish because no major importer brings in tilapia fish into the country but the smugglers sell this fish in Ijora market?
He blamed authorities for insincerity on policy implementation, saying that government appears not ready to help fish farmers in Nigeria.
Acknowledging the increasing level of tilapia production in the country, he regretted that the major challenge remains the level of consumption and influx of cheap product into the market.
He said, “They are embracing our tilapia gradually and with the kind of method we have adopted in the marketing of our brand, it will soon get close to the prices of smuggled types”.