Lim­ited ponds, poor fund­ing im­ped­ing fish busi­ness, farm­ers, sell­ers lament

Daily Trust - - BUSINESS - By Vic­to­ria Onehi & Simon Echewo­fun Sun­day

Fish farm­ing and re­tail­ing is one of the fastest grow­ing busi­nesses in the Nige­ria’s agro-eco­nomic sec­tor. This is be­cause al­most ev­ery house­hold in­cludes fish in its daily menu just as restau­ra­teurs, cater­ers and ho­tels do.

Many sell­ers and farm­ers of fish who spoke with our re­porters in Abuja say the mar­ket de­mand keeps ris­ing and that more in­vest­ment is needed to match the de­mand.

Within the Abuja city cen­tre, Daily Trust ob­served that a piece of fish was more ex­pen­sive than meat when served in a menu.

Mrs Aisha Solomon, who op­er­ates an eatery in Utako District, said that was be­cause iced fish was quite ex­pen­sive.

She said: “We sell it a lit­tle bit more ex­pen­sive than meat be­cause the mar­ket price has risen. A car­ton of frozen fish that sold for N4,000 be­fore the re­ces­sion is al­most N9,000 now. When we com­plained, the frozen food mar­keters of­ten say the cost of im­por­ta­tion has risen as well as what it takes to keep the fish frozen.”

An anal­y­sis of the sit­u­a­tion shows that it presents a huge op­por­tu­nity for a boost in lo­cal fish con­sump­tion if the ma­jor im­ped­i­ments of se­cur­ing the ponds, get­ting eas­ier ac­cess to fund and more species of fish are tack­led.

How­ever, this is still not the di­rec­tion in the fish busi­ness in Nige­ria. Some of the farm­ers and re­tail­ers pointed out that there are chal­lenges in get­ting a piece of land to build a pond or even hav­ing one to rent; that it is also dif­fi­cult to go to any of the banks and re­quest for loan for fish farm­ing, they said.

More so, the knowl­edge of fish farm­ing is com­mon with breed­ing cat­fish and rarely tilapia around many places in Nige­ria. A huge chunk of the fish con­sump­tion mar­ket is still lost to im­ported frozen foods brought in via the shores in La­gos.

The three chal­lenges above, among oth­ers, form the nar­ra­tive of the fish deal­ers our re­porters spoke with, with over 10 of them op­er­at­ing near Nyanya along the Abuja-Keffi ex­press­way.

Lim­ited ac­cess to ponds:

This, to many of the deal­ers, is a lead­ing chal­lenge for them. Madam Mar­garet Odu who farms and sells fish in Makurdi, Benue State, said it took her three months to get a piece of land to rent on which she built her fish ponds.

“When I was ready for the busi­ness, af­ter I had been sell­ing the fish in the mar­ket for about five years, I had to search around and luck­ily, a farmer rented a piece of land to me for 10 years. For about two years now, I have been sup­ply­ing cat­fish to ho­tels and clubs around the cap­i­tal city. I also sell frozen fish,” Mrs Odu said.

For Timothy Li­nus who has a fish pond in Zuba, a part of the Fed­eral Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory (FCT), it was a gift from his un­cle. He said, “My un­cle gave me the land to make the ponds and it has been quite help­ful be­cause many peo­ple troop to my farm to buy fish ev­ery three months.”

Ayuba Paul, also sells cat­fish along the Nyanya high­way; his chal­lenge is get­ting a pond - even to rent so he can start grow­ing his fish. “Al­though we make money from re­tail­ing cat­fish, it is bet­ter grow­ing them our­selves as I have the skills. I just need a place to roll out my ponds and ex­pand the busi­ness,” he said.

For Mr Eric Ojeh, he has been able to ease the chal­lenge of lack of ponds by hir­ing ponds. “I de­cided to hire pond be­cause I could not af­ford to buy land to build a pond in when I wanted to go into fish farm­ing,” he said.

He says the cost of the pond de­pended on the size; a pond that can keep 2,000 fishes cost N25,000. “The pond is usu­ally leased out for six months. That is the pe­riod of ma­tu­rity of the fishes. But if you want to con­tinue, you pay again and re-stock. I have hired 10 of the ponds so far. But in the area were the pond is lo­cated in Kubwa there are over 50 ponds,” he ex­plained.

For Isa Ab­dul­ganiyu, the avail­abil­ity of more fish ponds for rental pur­poses will help grow the busi­ness faster. Isa, who is lucky to have a pond in New Karu town of Nasarawa State said, “For in­stance, if there are more ponds built by es­tate de­vel­op­ers for rental, many peo­ple will go into the busi­ness and that will boost the econ­omy.”

Lim­ited ac­cess to loan:

The other im­ped­i­ment is get­ting ac­cess to loans. Mike Onukra who sells cat­fish along the high­way said he sought to buy some freez­ing equip­ment to pre­serve more of his stocks but found it dif­fi­cult to raise the fund.

“I went to a bank in Mararaba, Nasarawa State to seek for loan but I was told it would re­quire a lot of back­ing from recog­nised pub­lic agen­cies,” Onukra said.

“Most of us de­pend on our sav­ings and the plough back profit to grow the busi­ness and that can hardly ex­pand any busi­ness to a sig­nif­i­cant level. There is no doubt that we make profit marginally from the sales and breed­ing of fish but there should be a means where loans can be ac­cessed solely to grow fish­ery ven­tures,” Ms Sarah Okoh, a fish mar­keter in Karu town in the FCT said.

An­other top chal­lenge in the fish farm­ing busi­ness is lim­ited Many farm­ers in Nige­ria of­ten rely on grow­ing cat­fish and rarely tilapia. A huge chunk of the mar­ket is still be­ing fed by the im­por­ta­tion of frozen fish which adds to the cost of af­ford­ing fish in the coun­try, the mar­keters dis­closed.

Mrs Maryam Audu who deals in frozen fish in Mararaba mar­ket said, “at most places where fresh fish is sold, you of­ten find that they are cat­fish. It is time for our re­searchers in the agri­cul­ture sec­tor to be­gin mas­sive re­searches so that more species can be grown lo­cally.”

ac­cess to species.

Some fish farm­ers at a fish pond

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