Boosting SA’s fish farming wave
Entrepreneur Khashane says moves afoot to up aquaculture by 12%
Although most South Africans grow up eating fish, it is difficult to convince them that what they are used to getting out of a can, as in pilchards, they could be getting fresh from the water, said fish farmer Morena Khashane, owner of Aquamor Fish Farms, based in Mahikeng, in the North West province.
Khashane, who was addressing a gathering of potential fish farmers in East London on behalf of the Eastern Cape Chamber of Business, told the audience that fish was SA’s answer to counter the high price of protein – and it was potentially both cheap and sustainable.
“The country’s immediate target is lifting aquaculture production by at least 12%, simply to counter the growing threat to wild stock.
“At present, South Africans eat 7kg of fish a year, mainly canned. We need to jump this to 15kg, and with farming it should not be difficult.”
Khashane recently set up Tlhapi Management Consulting, which specialises in getting prospective fish farmers on to the development wave, and assisting active farmers with international best practice.
“We are training fish farmers to have a broader vision of the business. Our aim is assisting them taking fish from eggs and sprats, through to an optimal weight for sales.
“There is no point growing them to sizes where they become problems, because while they put on too much weight, the feed overhead shrinks profits.”
It is essential, said Khashane, to evaluate the market and meet with buyers.
“Find out what they need; size, weight, delivery schedules. If current production does not match the requirements, look for other markets or change production habits. The market for fish is out there, local and export, but it is the actual marketing that is hampering the industry.”
After matriculating, Khashane studied agriculture in QwaQwa, spent a few years working on farms, then returned to studying, this time focusing on aquaculture.
“I had a lecturer who suggested I look at fish farming as a career. I was fortunate to get a place at Stellenbosch University, specialising in fish and production management. Once I qualified, I worked in Eastern Cape, first on a trout farm for two years, then on an abalone production plant in Hermanus, and finally for the department of agriculture, based at the aquarium in Cape Town. There is nothing better for people wanting to get into the industry than getting their hands wet in a top producer’s pond.”
His biggest break came when he spent a year in China, studying fish farming and distribution. “It was on a scale that still astounds me. They even grow grouper, which is a highly priced delicacy.”
Groupers, a coral reef fish with 162 species, are overfished in China and South East Asia. Although most are not endangered, there is still a scarcity, and restaurant prices start at around R340 per filleted kg.
The scarce leopard coral trout bucks the price trend, fetching up to R4,500/kg in mainland China – especially over Chinese New Year.
“In China the shift from wild-capture to farming grouper is likely to be the saviour of many species. It is something we need to emulate in SA.”
Khashane said the industry was still grappling to meet its potential, both as an exporter but also creating jobs, and sustaining them.
“There is no reason that fish farming should not cascade down through to the rural villages and small seaside towns. With careful attention to the processes, particularly the hygiene aspects, fish might one day challenge chicken as the country’s leading source of high quality protein.”