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