Surviving the effect of current economic situation in Nigeria on catfish farming investment involves conscious and coordinated efforts. Like I said in a recent article, returns on catfish farming investment have reduced drastically. This trend has been so obvious in the last two years. Yet there may still be more hikes in prices of catfish feed inputs, especially those from foreign countries. Just three days ago, there was news that the price of certain popular brand of floating feed has gone higher. This happens after three days of artificial scarcity. The price of a bag of that feed jumped from 4950 Naira to 7050 Naira. Mathematically, this is more than 40 percent increase within a period of one week. How can catfish farmers survive this?
Failure on the part of policy makers and stakeholders in catfish farming business to address this problem may result in more loss of investment in fish farming sector. In my opinion, catfish farmers can take some conscious steps towards increasing profitability of the business. I am giving these recommendations because of my active involvement in catfish farming. I can feel the pain of numerous Nigerian catfish farmers. Here are the few suggestions for those concerned on how to improve returns on catfish farming investment.
Roles of Catfish Farmers and Catfish Farmers Associations
- Never rush to stock your pond(s). Be sure of the quality of seeds available for you. It is better not to stock than to stock poorly-bred fish.
- If possible, all farmers should learn how to breed for personal needs so as to be sure of the quality of fish stocked. Apart from the initial setup cost, it is cheaper to breed for your farm usage.
- At least for the next few months, big farmers should reduce their stocking rate by minimum of 30 percent. Price of catfish is determined by market mechanism of demand and supply. Price will never increase significantly except there is shortage in supply as a result of stocking control. According to my calculations, farmers can only be sure of reasonable profits if a kilogram of fish is sold for nothing less than 650 Naira. This may not be achievable except there is shortage in supply.
- Catfish farmers should form a strong association or strengthen the existing ones. This association should be saddled with the responsibility of controlling the sales and production of catfish all over the country. To achieve this, there should be branches of this association at local government and wards level all over the federation. The involvement of Ministry of Agriculture in the association will add to its credibility. If there is excess production in a particular season, the Ministry of Agriculture, through agencies, can buy the excess to be processed and sold at subsidized rates.
- A small unit or group of catfish farmers can put resources together to purchase inputs in bulk and share among themselves. This will reduce the cost of production up to about 20 percent. Processing of these ingredients should be done through catfish cooperative society feed mill.
- Under no condition should catfish farmers use foreign ingredient that has local substitute.
- Ensure you introduce your fish to local feed as early as one month after stocking. You can start by introducing your catfishes to 2mm local feed at the early stage. If possible, farmers’ cooperative societies should get machine that produces floating feed to reduce waste.
Roles of Governments (Policy Makers) at Various Levels
- Federal government should step up efforts at generating and distribution electricity to all part of the country. This will enable farmers to produce feeds for their fishes at reduced cost and also attract foreign investor in any aspect of catfish production.
- Re-introduction of price control board in catfish market will help farmers to sell at competitive prices.
- Regulation and control of inputs through existing and new government agencies will go a long way towards reducing the influx of adulterated feed inputs into the country.
- The role of government at various levels should be in policy formulation and control.
- Provisions of low-interest and interest-free loan to farmers should be in kind to avoid diversion on fund.
- Periodical intervention in time of excess production to ensure price stability.
- Opening up of international market for catfish exportation through signing of bilateral trade agreement with countries of low comparative advantages in the area of catfish production.
- Government at various levels should promote political stability and peaceful co-existence of Nigerians.
- Finally, government should come up with genuine economic ideas that will boost the economy through diversification of the nation’s source of revenue.