The present day economy in Nigeria is not friendly to many businesses including catfish farming business. The situation of our micro economy calls for change in our approaches of handling business. Doing things the way we used to do it will not give us desired results based on present economic realities. Catfish farmers who want to make profit must take care of details. Unnecessary expenditures must be cut down to the barest minimum in order to reduce overhead.
I have discovered a consistent increase in cost of catfish feed and ingredient over the past three years without corresponding increase in the price of table size fish. For instance, Soya meal was sold for around 70 Naira per kg three years ago (2013) and, at the same time, a kg of small size catfish was sold for around 420 Naira. In March 2016, when a kg of Soya is being sold for 165 Naira per kg, a small size catfish has not gone up more than 430 naira per kg, which means there’s an increase of 10 Naira per kg on small size catfish in three years whereas the increase in cost of ingredients has been more than 100 percent. If you have been doing catfish farming anyhow in the years past with record of good profit, you cannot afford to remain the same way and expect results. Many farmers complain of low profit on their sales without making reference to the present economic situation.
I believe strongly that the following piece of advice will be useful for small and medium scale farmers who need improvement in the rate of returns on their investment.
1. Don’t Buy Your Inputs in Units, Buy in Bulk: I have discovered that you can save as much as five Naira on every unit of input you buy in bulk (wholesales) compared to those you buy in units (retail). A popular brand of floating catfish feed is sold for 5,200 Naira in the market when you buy in unit (per bag of 15kg). The same can be bought for as low as 4,950 Naira when you buy up to 10 bags at a time. This means you can save as much as 250 Naira per bag on every bulk purchase. You may not need as much as 10 bags at a time but two or three people can come together to buy up to 10 bags in order to reduce the cost of inputs. Buying more than 10 bags at once can attract better discounts per bag of feed. The same is obtainable on other inputs like Soya, GNC, fish meal, etc. The more you buy the lower the cost per unit. A few months ago, after I sold my fishes, I decided to buy some tones of Soya in order to keep my money from the effect of inflation on Naira. Before long, there was increase of about 40 Naira on every unit of Soya I bought. As much as you can, try to speculate by buying in bulk and later use for your catfish feed production. Remember the time you can buy and keep. Don’t make a mistake of buying in bulk when prices are coming down.
2. Reduce the Use of Imported Materials/Inputs: Fall in value of Naira against dollar has resulted in sharp rise in cost of imported catfish ingredients like Premix, Menthionine, Lysine, Fish Meal, etc. Use of some of these imported materials will not add value to your production but rather increase significantly the cost of your output. Don’t forget to bear in mind that no one is ready to pay more for your output (catfish) because you used foreign materials to raise them. Do not use any of these imported materials that have good substitute in local markets. You are only advised to use imported ingredients that have no substitute in the local market or when you are not sure of the quality of those produced within the country. For instance, farmers are not encouraged to make use of 72 percent fish meal in the present economic situation of the country (Nigeria). Local fish meal makes a good substitute for 72 percent fish meal. Be reminded that the use of local materials will do you a lot of good in your catfish business.
3. Reduce the Use of Hired Laborers (Contractors) on Your Farm: Some minor problems that can be fixed by you should not be given to hired laborers to do for you so as to reduce overhead cost. Packing of water weeds, fixing of pipes, netting of ponds, and cutting of grasses can be done by you. A full-time farmer can take care of 10,000 stocks of fishes without external assistance. Make sure your feeds are taken to the farm once a week or more to reduce the cost of logistics. Do not overstaff, take charge of your business.
4. Avoid Loopholes that Can Lead to Sabotage of Efforts: Ensure you work on security of your farm. Protect your ponds from floods and do as much as possible to limit loss due to mortality by embracing best practices in catfish farming.
5. Understand the Market Trend and Ensure Your Production Meet the Demands of the People at a Particular Period of Time: Your knowledge of market should include needs and demands in your local markets. The prevailing economy of Nigeria does not permit the production of big size fishes at least for now. You will do yourself a big favor by following the trends of the market. Before you stock your next fish, put in mind what is needed in the market to guide your production activities.
6. Don’t Keep Fishes that Do Not Perform to Expectation For too Long: You might lose much more money while trying to keep fishes that do not perform to expectation. Even if you feed them with gold, they will not still grow. This time is not the time to experiment, make sure you embrace wholesome and best practices in catfish farming.
7. Feed Once Per Day and Don’t Attempt to Overfeed: From careful personal observation, I have discovered that it takes up to 20 hours for big size catfishes to completely digest their feed intake. Hence, feeding them twice a day is a waste of resources because they can vomit feed and you will not know. Overfeeding is a waste of resources. You stand to benefit nothing from this act.
8. Ensure You Use Quality and Reliable Feed Ingredients: Your fishes are what they feed on.
9. Practice Instructions 1 – 8 Till Nigeria Economy Bounces Back: Do not take anything for granted. Monitor your feed production. Make sure you supervise the feeding of your fishes, and always observe the performance of your fishes in order to know their state of well-being. Do not wait till everything goes out of hand. Save your scarce resources.