Tilapia Farms Cast­ing Wider Fi­jian Net

Fiji Sun - - BUSINESS -

En­sur­ing food se­cu­rity in the midst of coro­n­avirus (COVID-19) has be­come a pri­or­ity across the Pa­cific, with lim­ited im­ports in­creas­ing the de­mand for lo­cal sta­ples.

How­ever, the in­stinct for sur­vival and self-suf­fi­ciency is re­sult­ing in a grow­ing num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als look­ing into the po­ten­tial of tilapia farm­ing in the Fiji Is­lands.

De­mand for com­mer­cial tilapia fish

The de­mand for com­mer­cial tilapia fish has in­creased, along with com­pet­i­tive prices and a niche mar­ket pro­vid­ing a sta­ble in­come for many es­tab­lished farm­ers.

In recog­ni­tion of this change, the Pa­cific Com­mu­nity’s (SPC) aqua­cul­ture team has found a so­lu­tion which en­sures low cost feed and in­no­va­tive farm­ing tech­niques which has po­ten­tial to at­tract more farm­ers to­wards this mar­ket.

PacAqua

Through SPC’s Sus­tain­able Pa­cific Aqua­cul­ture De­vel­op­ment Project or PacAqua and with fund­ing sup­port from the New Zealand Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs and Trade (MFAT), a con­sul­tant was en­gaged to de­velop new feed for­mu­las which could be lo­cally pro­duced and pro­vide the nutri­tion re­quired for the fish to grow rapidly.

“We had a con­sul­tant come in to de­velop some new feed for­mu­la­tions and he de­signed a new for­mula which is now be­ing pro­duced by a lo­cal man­u­fac­turer,” said SPC aqua­cul­ture of­fi­cer Av­inash Singh. “To en­sure that the im­pact was also mea­sur­able un­der farmer con­di­tions, we con­ducted field tri­als in two sep­a­rate lo­ca­tions and the re­sults were very promis­ing.”

Proper feed man­age­ment

To share the find­ings, the PacAqua team took over 20 farm­ers on a field trip so they could wit­ness first- hand how an in­vest­ment in proper feed man­age­ment and pond care can en­sure prof­its and al­low the sus­tain­able ex­pan­sion of their busi­ness.

“We wanted to dis­sem­i­nate the an­a­lysed data in­for­ma­tion to the farm­ers but for them see­ing is be­liev­ing,” said Mr Singh.

“The re­search in­for­ma­tion trans­lated to them has been well ab­sorbed and now we are work­ing with the farm­ers on what are the next steps to in­crease pro­duc­tion and in­come gen­er­a­tion.

The PacAqua project has also been sup­port­ing the Min­istry of Fish­eries and lo­cal farm­ers on hatch­eries, which only pro­duce male tilapia that grow big­ger and faster, and en­sures quick turn around on stocks to meet the lo­cal de­mand.

Ratu Meli Qaidamu, a tilapia farmer for over four years, was left as­tounded by the find­ings and the im­pact of us­ing only male cul­tured fin­ger­lings for pro­duc­tion.

“Many of the things I heard to­day is very new for me,” he said. “Run­ning a farm all these years I would never have thought how I could in­crease my busi­ness, but now I can see the re­sults my­self and it’s time to change the way I have been do­ing things.

“This will surely help me and my fam­ily busi­ness.”

For Kata Baleisuva, who op­er­ates Kay­bees farms, see­ing the fruits of her labour was over­whelm­ing. Kay­bees farm is a pri­vately owned hatch­ery pro­duc­ing only all make cul­tured fin­ger­lings.

Min­istry of Fish­eries

The Fiji Min­istry of Fish­eries Tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer Prashant Narayan says they are en­cour­aged with the re­sults and the po­ten­tial for the aqua­cul­ture sec­tor.

“We are very sup­port­ive of this as the Min­istry’s pri­mary con­cern is food se­cu­rity and one way we can en­sure this is through aqua­cul­ture. “So es­tab­lished farm­ers had been con­cerned with feed costs and stock man­age­ment and SPC came in and we con­ducted the tri­als and now we have proof that the new feeds work and this pro­vides ev­i­dence for new farm­ers to ven­ture into aqua­cul­ture,” said Mr Narayan.

SPC con­tin­ues to work with the Min­istry of Fish­eries and lo­cal farm­ers to yield bet­ter re­sults for the farm­ers and help en­sure long term sus­tain­able food se­cu­rity.

Kay­bee Farm at Nakasi, near Suva, be­gan its first com­mer­cial sales of tilapia fin­ger­lings this week, pro­vid­ing fish farm­ers with fresh pond stocks for the grow­ing aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try in Fiji. The Kay­bee Farm’s batch of 20,000 all-male fish fin­ger­lings, reared up to 2.5g or 1-inch size, have all been sold to Laisi­asa Cavak­iqali, who op­er­ates a tilapia fish grow-out farm in Ba.

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