Fish farming is one of the most profitable agribusinesses in Africa. You can start fish farming without the need for huge investments on capital projects like purchase of land and heavy constructions as is obtainable in poultry farming. One particular thing I love about fish farming business is that you can get details of your profit and loss after just a season of six months. I am also particular about rate of returns on the investment. It’s always fantastic when you get the business right. In fact, some of us in the fish farming business cannot easily switch to other businesses; we prefer to expand our capacity because fish farming is interesting.
As interesting as fish farming is in our own part of the continent, there are many challenges existing and new fish farmers are facing and will still be facing if drastic steps are not taken to correct abnormality in the business. These challenges are seriously militating against the development of fish farming. According to my article on prospect of catfish farming in Nigeria, fish farming can generate a lot of employment opportunity for the vast unemployed youth in Africa and also earn the continent a huge foreign reserve. Some of the problems militating against the development of fish farming are discussed below:
- Limited access to Loan: In spite of various governments’ interventions to develop the Agricultural sector of the economy, access to Agric loan is still very limited. Other sectors of the economy like the petroleum and mining sectors are given preference due to huge returns on these investments. In fact, most of the loan meant for Agricultural development are either diverted or given to office farmers who spend the money on things other than Agriculture. Many that really want to invest on fish farming cannot obtain loan due to stringent requirements by banks and other financial institution. I will also like to mention here that some farmers are not creditworthy. Farmers who refuse to pay back loans from financial institutions block other farmers’ chances of obtaining similar facilities. The government of Nigeria and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa need to do more at ensuring loans and grants are available for the purpose of fish farming. Also, financial expert should come up with viable ways of making farmers to repay loan as at when due. This will help the development of fish farming which can stimulate the African economy.
- Poor Market Opportunities: Fish farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa produce mainly for the local market. In fact there are limited opportunities to export fishes produced in one country to another. The reason for this challenge border on cost of production, government international trade policy and Africans’ behavior to what is produced in Africa. If fish farming will develop beyond its present state, there must be room for international market opportunities created through international trade agreement between countries. African governments must work hard to ensure that Africans are patronizing made in African foods and other products. This can only be achieved through strong policies and value re-orientations. It is time for fish farmers in Africa to embrace international best practices in fish productions. Fishes of African origin should be raised to meet international standard required in Europe and America to extend and expand limited market for our artificially produced fishes.
- Fish Species Available for Culturing are Limited: The vast available water resources in some part of Africa calls for production of more species of fish. Nigeria has been prominent for the production of limited species of catfish and tilapia along its fresh waters ways. Other species of freshwater fishes are neglected. As a matter of fact, culturing of saltwater fishes is not so popular in the country in spite of abundance saltwater resources available for use. People cannot continue to be eating catfish and tilapia alone. There is a need for African fish farmers to increase on variety of fishes being produced to satisfy the changing appetite of the populace. Aquaculture research institutes should do more on researching new species of fishes that can be cultured within Sub-Saharan Africa. The researches should not be limited to freshwater fishes. We can also explore the possibility of locally producing some marine species. Marine engineers should come up with possible ways of culturing saltwater fishes along our coasts. Fish farmers are eagerly awaiting introduction of new fish species that can be raised profitably in our environment.
- Credit Nature of Fish Market: The fish market is a very unique market. One feature that makes the fish market unique in some parts of Africa is that it is credit driven. Fish farmers are most of the time at the mercy of middlemen and large scale buyers who always buy on credit and may pay back at a later date. Observers believe that this payment pattern is an indication that the market is too narrow and limited. Many are not encouraged to go into fish farming business because of this challenge. In my own opinion, fish farmers should invest more on storage and processing facilities to ensure that they are not being ripped off by buyers who are ready to maltreat them and their investments.
- Unstable Price of Input and Output: Prices of catfish feeds and feed ingredients are always unpredictable. This is attributed to an unstable economic environment that this region falls in. In this part of the world, the price of fish production does not determine the price of output. The price of the end product is solely determined by market mechanism. Cost of imported feed and inputs are going up by the day. Honestly speaking, no serious investor will want to invest in an uncertain business like fish farming due to economic instability in our own region. There is a need to develop crop farming in order to ensure stable price of input since up to seventy percent of fish feeds are made up of crop farming outputs.
- Substandard and Adulterated Inputs: So much has been written on this subject on this blog. Most of the input produced locally or imported from countries like China, Taiwan, etc, are not up to international standard. I don’t want to point an accusing finger at these countries. Instead, some of our importers that always request for sub-quality product and regulatory agencies that are known for corrupt practices are to be blame. Measuring scales and pumping machines that should be used for as much as 5-10 years depending on how they are being handled can only be used for one or two years no matter how well you handle them. Farmers cannot rely on the quality of product based on the label specifications. You have to analyze products like fish meal, methionine, lysine, etc, in the laboratory before you can be sure of the quality. The analysis expected of the farmers is not one time; every batch of supply of these products must be analyzed. Little wonder that Africa is one of the most expensive places on earth to produce. African governments should do more at ensuring good quality of product imported into the country. Any importer found guilty of influencing international producers to produce sub-standard products for African use should be made to face the wrath of the law.
- Annual Floods and other Natural Disasters: The nature of waterways in Nigeria and some other parts of Africa have made flooding an annual experience among fish farmers in the sub-continent. Solid wastes are dumped on the waterways due to poor awareness of dangers in the practice. Many fish farmers have lost their fortune to flooding, and many will not dare venture into fish farming due to this problem. Also, extreme drought in some part of the region in certain season has not really help the development of fish farming in Africa.
- Poor Conservation Policies: There is no restriction to fishing of wild fishes in some part of Africa. Where these restrictions are available, implementation is often poor. Wild fishes are cheaper because of no cost of production. This is the major reason fish farming is not given enough backing by those concerned. Until there is a total ban on fishing of some endangered species of fishes in Africa, fish farming sector will remain under-developed.