‘Government is neglecting the fish industry’
The fish industry is currently facing so many challenges which have affected its production in the country. COLLINS NNABUIFE speaks with a fish farmer, Mohammed Sani, who highlighted some of these challenges and proffered solutions.
What is the state of the fish industry?
The fish industry is facing a lot of challenges, a lot of financial problems. The nature of the business depends on the exchange rate. We are still in recession as far as we farmers are concerned.
Fish is a source of protein and it is very rich, every human being needs fish, but very unfortunately, the business of fish in Nigeria does not get the deserved attention from the government by supporting and improving the sector.
We are facing the challenges of water in terms of providing necessary water for the fish to survive. We are facing the problem of high price of feed in the market. Because of the inputs, these companies buy from farmers and process the feed the feed and sell. The high price of feed in the market is due to the poor intervention of the government to coordinate and stabilise the standard price which will balance between consumers and producers.
Also we are facing the problem of the price of the fish. Fish is better than meat, but the price of fish per kilogramme is less than the price of meat. We have been complaining over and over, the price of fish now is not up to N1,000 per kilogramme, but the price of the red meat is up to N1,000 per kilogramme. We buy feed at very expensive price and end up selling low price per kilogramme compared to meat.
There is another problem we are facing with feed. We buy feed from the factories, then we feed the fishes. At the end of the day, when you harvest, you won’t even recover the money you invested, due to the poor quality of feed from the local producers, though there are changes in recent times due to the emergence of new feed producers in the country. In spite of all these, the price of feed is still very high in the market.
What exactly is the major factor contributing to the high cost of fish feed?
Why the prices of feed is high is because materials for feed production which is purchased from farmers. The high cost of fertilisers is something which the farmers are complaining about; they will use it to produce the ingredients like soybeans groundnuts and others for fish feed.
Whenever we complain about the high cost of fish feed to the producers, they tell us that the fish feed ingredients are very expensive in the market. If the government can come into the agriculture sector and make things very cheap and within the reach of common man. This will support the farmers so that they can produce massively the grains and crops for fish farmers; hence the feed processing will be very low and fish will be available to all.
Now as a small scale farmer, it is very difficult to produce feed because of lack machines. The small scale farmer does not have the machine to grind the materials, turn them into powder and mix them together and produce the feed.
For the farmer to produce the feed, he must be able to buy the machines that can give him this opportunity, and this kind of machine is very expensive. This is what the feed producers capitalise on and fix the prices as they wish. But if a farmer can go to any market and buy materials and produce his own feed, he will find it very cheap and it will make the price of fish very cheap and farmers can also make money.
Is there any hope that the prices of feed will reduce?
There is hope because Nigerians have started coming out with their own technological solutions. Some of my colleagues have created the manual machine.
We have mechanical engineering departments in the universities, they can even produce these kind of machines, though in some parts of the country, these machines are being fabricated locally which can give the farmer all the results he want.
The prices of these locally fabricated fish feed machines is low compared the imported ones from China and India, so we are hopeful that soon Nigerians will start producing their own machines, but still they need interventions from the government where they can produce the machines at low price so that farmers can afford it.
What are the other challenges the fishery business is facing in Nigeria?
Some challenges we are still facing include the recent flooding in Suleja. My colleagues that were affected by the flood reported that about 70,000 fishes were lost as a result of that flood. We advise them that they should site their ponds far from flood prone areas. Some people pay little attention to these factors. If ponds are sited close to a river, if flood comes, it will wash away the fishes.
I am appealing to the government to create a fish city in Abuja and other locations in the country where people can hatch, rear, process and market fish, like the Kado fish market which is incomplete. The government can create a fish village where people can go and do all aspects of fish business, with this, Nigeria can be exporting fish.