As a result of poor financial planning and other factors which might include flooding, theft, poor growth, disease outbreak and so on, many farmers might decide to sell their grow-out fishes before they reach maturity. Among the factors mentioned earlier, poor financial planning often makes the farmer to sell before their stock matures. They believe that if they will not be able to feed their catfishes, the best option is to sell them off so that they will not lose the initial weight gained. Each farmer should have in mind, right from the beginning of raising their fishes, the time he or she wants to dispose his or her produce. The determination of each farmer should be guided by these two factors:
- Target market for the fish
- Maturity period of the species being raised
The “market” mentioned here may not be understood by non-fish farmers or sellers. However, in simple language, fish markets are in different categories. Each category is defined by the size of fishes expected in such market. There are four major fish markets across Nigerian environment, they are:
- Extra Large Fish Market (called Onitsha Market in Nigeria): It is one of the regional fish markets where extra large fishes are sold. The fishes sold here are mainly average of 2.4kg and above. It takes an average of 6 – 9 months to achieve this size.
- Large Fish Market (called Abuja Market in Nigeria): This is by far the largest catfish market in Nigeria. It can be categorized as the national catfish depot where people from almost every part of the country shop for their catfishes and catfishes are even exported in dry forms to Europe and America. This market permits all sizes of fishes; big, medium, small, smallest, etc. It takes an average of between 4 ½ months and 6 months to achieve these sizes.
- Local Markets (township markets): This market is situated in and around towns and cities where catfishes are raised. It is termed local market because catfish sellers in these towns buy directly from local producers to sell to their numerous customers (catfish lovers) within the town. Sizes sold in this market ranges from 500 to 900 grams; four months of intensive feeding will give these sizes.
- Dry Fish Market: A farmer produces for dry fish market when the size of his fish is not more than 500 grams at the time of harvest. It takes between 3 – 4 months to achieve this size depending on the species of the fish stocked.
From experience, it has been observed that bigger is always better for catfish markets. At this point, I would like to suggest that a farmer should allow his fishes to reach mature age of at least five months. This will enable him to benefit in the following ways:
- Get the best from the fish feed formula: The hypothesis behind this point is simple. Small catfishes require much protein to grow well. The crude protein required ranges from between 42 – 45% of their feed intake. The same protein requirement could drop to as low as 35% in grow-out fishes of 1kg and above. The higher the crude protein of your feed, the higher the cost of feed produced, hence it is suggested that farmers should wait to maximize the right benefit from their feed formulation.
- Get the best from the size of fish: Another benefit of leaving your fishes for at least five months is to achieve better returns as a result of improved sizes. Bigger catfishes cost more per kg than smaller ones – especially in Nigeria. The following is the current price list as at the time of this report:
|2.5kg and above||N550/kg|
|1.6kg to 2.4kg||N520/kg|
|1 to 1.5kg||N520/kg|
|600grams to 1kg||N430/kg|
Source: Market Survey February 2016.
- Get the best from bone weight: catfishes get better and denser bone weight as their age advances. Allowing the fishes to reach mature age of 5 months will allow the farmer to get the best from their mature bone structure which will add to their weight since catfish markets is a weight market.
For any farmer to benefit from catfish maturity, he or she must wait. However, some catfish species mature earlier, say 4 months, while others mature late (5 months and above). For catfishes that mature in 4 months, there is no point keeping them for more than 4 months because keeping them beyond this age will amount to waste of money.