A fish farmer, Mr Anthony Hameed, has raised concerns at the high cost of fish feeds and called for federal government intervention to encourage the sector.
Hameed, who is the Managing Director, Simple and Standard Aquaculture farm, Lagos, decried the situation in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Lagos.
He said in spite of the lucrative nature of aquaculture business, the procurement of fish feed still poses a major challenge and had made many farmers to abandon the business.
Hameed said the high exchange rate was a major factor militating against the development of the fish sector of agriculture.
The fish farmer said the sector required targeted interventions, especially geared at supporting and improving the sector to boost production and meet market demand.
He said that fish farmers now sought intervention of government in the areas of subsidy on fish feed, micro-credits and other incentives to encourage production.
According to him, the intervention has become imperative because high percentage of farmers source their start-up capital from their personal savings and the high cost of feeds had made it difficult for many of the farmers to continue.
Hameed explained that the implication of this was that it would be very difficult for fish farmers to go into large scale fish production, particularly farmers targeting export to foreign markets.
“There is need to increase investment in aquaculture if importation of frozen fish must be reduced and enable fish farmers produce local fish feeds without having to depend on the imported ones.
“We need government loans for fish feed, so that during the period of glut of this fish feed components, we can buy it all up and not have to spend extra during the scarcity period,’’ the farmer said.
Hameed listed some of the challenges to include unavailability of ingredients used in preparing fish feeds, such as Soya beans, groundnut cake and maize, which are sourced from the northern part of the country and seasonal..
“The case is that when we rear some juvenile or fingerlings, their first source of feeding is protein feeds and most protein feeds are imported.
“We must make use of foreign fish feed for the first two months before we start making use of our local fish feeds and this is a big problem,’’ he said.
The farmer also said that the border closure was taking its toll on fish farmers because soya beans used to compound fish feed was no longer readily available.
According to him, the price of local soya beans we get from Kano is high, when compared to the one from Chad that is more oily and nutritious.
Hameed said most farmers were running out of soya beans stock and farmers were having a hard time meeting the demands in Nigeria.
He observed that the demand for fish was on the increase and the gap in ratio of fish farmers to the demand was still very high and urged government to give adequate attention to fish farming.
“The inability of Nigeria to produce enough fish for consumption had led to massive fish importation.
NAN recalls that that Nigeria spends about N50 billion on fish importation annually to meet its yearly fish demand of 1.5 million tonnes.
According to records, the country can only boast of producing 500,000 tonnes of fish annually, which is only one-third of the fish needed in the country.