There is a level of risk to in every business venture. Catfish farming business is not an exception. To many, catfish farming business is a no go area because of what they heard about the risk involved. I once told a story about my pond owner who advised us not to consider catfish farming as a viable business venture. His reason was simple: He believes catfish farming business is full of risks that could be so overwhelming.
As far as I am concerned, risk is normal in every viable business. A serious investor should not be discouraged due to the level of risks in a business but should instead find ways of overcoming them. Once risks in a business can be managed, then such business is good enough. It is both feasible and viable. I can say it with all boldness that risk in catfish farming investment can be managed. Success of risk management in catfish farming is a function of what you know as a farmer.
For obvious reasons, I will like to discuss briefly with some of my readers the major risks an investor in catfish farming should prepare to manage.
- Flood: Cultured catfishes are raised very close to water source because water is almost everything to fish. Once in a while, water level could rise above normal level and find its way to earthen ponds constructed along the river bank. I have been victim of this risk times without number. I was not prepared enough for such occurrence. I could have taken some proactive steps ahead of time. My reason for the poor management of this risk is that the property on which my ponds are located was leased and there is no reason to develop another person’s property. I was making reference to what we learnt in school that “whatever is affixed to the land belongs to the land.” I was foolish. I lost so much that I can buy a better property from what I’ve lost. Safeguarding ponds will help you to secure your investment at a very reasonable cost. Failure to act fast could make you lose your entire life savings.
- Theft/Poaching: This is by far the most common risk in catfish farming. Ponds located within the neighborhood are most affected by this risk. The poverty level in some communities has made the theft of catfishes a daily occurrence. Hook and line, both of single head and multiple heads, are used to carry out this evil act. You will not notice that your fishes are being poached if you are not observant enough… until you harvest your stock. Recently one of my students told me about how a group of armed men invaded their neighborhood to steal catfish with net and buses. They were not successful due to security alert raised by one of the guards on duty. Apart from external thieves, you may have to contend with farm attendants and even night security on the farm. Securing your farm is a big challenge that should not be handled with negligence. In fact, cost of securing your farm should be given a preference in the scale of cost of production. Determine the best method to secure your farm based on the environment you find yourself.
- Mortality: Much has been said about this subject, but I will like to say more for emphasis sake. I once narrated my experience as a fresher in catfish farming when almost 70 percent of our catfish stock was lost to mortality. I tried all I could to prevent those fishes under my care from dying but to no avail. Probably you were told that mortality in catfish is not an issue, but you may have to bite your fingers when it happens. Mortality is one of the threats to profitability of catfish farming business. Learn how to manage it. I have written many articles on this subject. Please read for more clarifications.
- Market-Related Risk: Although catfish is now gold in the market, there have been times when you could be looking for people to buy your fishes for months. Many new farmers have experienced this times without number. When customers finally arrive, you may have to battle with getting a better price from them. The annual glut in catfish market has not helped the matter. Can you imagine a situation in which you have to sell on credit what you labored on for 6 month? Many credit sales ended up being a fraud. Many excuses are given for non-payment of your due. In my opinion, catfish market favors the middlemen because farmers have little or no influence on the market. There is always conspiracy among catfish buyers because of obvious disunity among catfish farmers. The problem of catfish farming is not what to produce or how to produce but how do we get what was produced to the right people at the right time.
- Fake Inputs: It is one thing to get inputs you need for your catfish farm on time and another thing to get a good quality that has not been adulterated. I always blame government institutions responsible for control of product made within and outside Nigeria for this. Many businesses have been ruined because of negligence of those responsible for this important assignment. Cost of production has drastically increased because I have to analyze every ingredient in the laboratory before I can be sure of their authenticity. How do I get fish that is well-bred, floating feed that is original and other ingredients that have not been mixed with inferior products?
- Drought: Though drought is not very common in West Africa, we cannot rule out the possibility of prolonged dry season which could affect level of water table negatively. Culturing of catfish in dry season in some part of Nigeria is a risk. Catfish farmers should have plan B for fishes stocked in dry season in case of prolonged dry season.
Ways of Managing Risk in Catfish Farming Business
Share Knowledgeabout your experiences in the business with other farmers. You may not know that you are not as proficient as you thought until you speak out. Remember that no one is an island of knowledge.
Ask for Help when you are being faced with circumstances beyond your control. When you want to sell your fishes, always ask others for current price. Catfish buyers will never let you know when price increases. I also want to leave a little hint that I am working on creating a page that features current prices of catfish inputs and outputs… watch out.
Join an association of catfish farmers where people can brainstorm on issues that need to be addressed urgently. Remember that together we stand divided we fall.
Always have a plan B and do not be too rigid about your business resolutions.