How to Start a Catfish Processing and Packaging Business

smoked catfish

Are you thinking about starting a catfish processing and packaging business?

Do you want to know what it will take to set up this business? 

Are you looking for a business guide that explains what you need to know about packaging and selling your catfishes when they mature?

Before you wander in that line, we recommend you take a look at all you need to know about the catfish farming business.

Also, you need to know what catfishes do eat

The above guides are necessary because you need to have ready catfishes before you process them.

Majorly, this guide is for three categories of people;

  • Catfish farmers who want to expand their business line by adding the catfish processing and packaging business extension.
  • Secondly, if you are a catfish merchant who wants to sell smoked or dried fish, this guide will help you answer the “How to do it” question.
  • And lastly, if you want a way to preserve your catfishes from spoilage after harvest, this article will show you the best way possible.

Whichever of these categories you find yourself in, simply know that catfish processing is an add-on to the farming business.

Do you want to find out how to make big money smoking catfishes?

Find out below!!!


What is a catfish processing and packaging business?

Maybe the name sounds too foreign or something not relational but I’m sure it’s something you must have heard about.

Have you heard of the catfish smoking business?

That’s it.

The catfish processing business is popularly known as the catfish smoking business.

It’s an agribusiness that involves using or buying catfishes wholesale from farmers, converting it from its state to smoke-dried nature, and putting it up for sale.

Majorly, you process fishes that are mature and healthy for consumption.

Why should I join the catfish processing and packaging business?

Fishes on a general note easily get spoiled even after cooking or adding preservatives.

However, there’s a form in which catfishes can take and it will last longer. 

Here are some of the reasons why the catfish processing business is worth it;

1. Processing catfishes prevent them from spoilage:

As earlier stated fishes will easily rot once they are out of the water.

Having the catfishes processed and well packaged is one way to prevent them from spoilage.

Even if you’re not a catfish farmer and you bought a large number of catfishes, processing them is the best way to keep them from spoilage if you can’t freeze them until needed.

2. Processed catfishes are in high demand:

Have you ever tasted good food made with dried catfish?

The taste is usually unique.

Because many people love the taste of processed catfish, the demand is rising high and high.

There is a highly unsaturated market for smoked catfish.

And just so you know the available vendors have not still met the demands.

3. Processing catfish business is lucrative:

Besides keeping catfishes away from rot, deciding to process and package catfishes for sale yields more profit.

So, if you’re looking for an agribusiness that pays well without having to raise anything, then proving catfish is a good consideration.

All you have to do is buy from catfish farmers and process yourself and resale.

4. Starting a catfish processing and packaging business = No Stress:

One of the reasons you should consider having processing and packaging catfishes is that it is one of the easiest agribusinesses you can start.

And for the records, no stress at all as long as you have all the equipment you need.

5. Processing catfishes requires little capital:

You do not need much capital to start up the processing of catfishes unless you want to go large scale.

This is one of the businesses you can start with little capital.

You can start in your backyard just like snail farming and Poultry Farming.

However, this depends on your location and price in your area. 

catfish processing agribusiness idea

What do I need for a catfish smoke-drying business?

Before we go into the process of smoking catfishes, first you need to get your equipment ready.

Here are what you need to start a catfish smoke-drying and packaging business;

1. Smoke-drying oven:

A smoke-drying oven is a chamber you set for heating or drying the fish.

You can call it a factory or construct you can use to dry the catfish.

In place of an oven, you can use the firewood and gauze mechanism.

2. Reliable source of catfish:

If you’re not a catfish farmer, you will need to find a reliable source of catfish.

Your source should not just be reliable, the fish should come at a cheap market price.

It’s ideal you have more than one catfish supplier. 

This is to ensure you do not run out of fish.

3. Complete set of utensils:


Yes, you will need a complete set of utensils such as knives and bowls.

Of course, you’re not going to have dinner. 

You’ll need the utensils during the cleaning of the fish.

4. You’ll need salt, spices and other preservatives:

Salt and spices serve as preservatives as well as sweetness.

You will need them during brining so that the fish will be tasty.

5. Branded packages:

Depending on how big you want to go on this catfish processing and packaging business, you may need a branded package.

This will have the name of your catfish business on it.

6. Your country’s FDA approval number:

If you’re running large-scale, you will need the approval of your country’s FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

In Nigeria for instance, you will have to get the NAFDAC approval number.

This will give you relevance in the market. 

However, you can skip this step if you’re running a small-scale processing business.

Now that you know what you need, how do you process the catfishes?


How to process catfish from start to finish:

Here are the simple steps on how to process or smoke-dry your catfish;

1. Source for the catfish:

You can harvest from your farm if you’re a catfish farmer or you purchase if you’re not.

Put them in a container and add the appropriate amount of cooking salt. (This deactivates the fishes)

Place a lid over it to prevent the fishes from escaping. 

2. Clean the catfish:

Once the catfish is completely deactivated, the next step in the processing is to clean it. 

How do you do that?

  • Remove the catfish gills and intestines.
  • Wash in clean running water.

3. Brine the fishes:

Using salt, brine the catfishes.

This is not the same as the first salting, 

While brining, you will mix salt with water and soak the fish.

This will;

  • Firm the flesh of the fish and make it less slippery.
  • Draw out old blood and improve the taste of the fish.
  • Preserve the fish by killing and reducing bacterial growth.
  • Add additional flavor to fish.

3. Spice the fish:

This is an optional process especially if you’re selling in an open market and without branding. 

But if you’re branding, this stage makes your own brand taste unique.

You can spice using food flavours. 

All you have to be is smart and creative.

4. Smoke and dry:

Once your catfish is ready for processing, next is to heat the charcoal in the oven. 

If you’re using a gas or electric oven just light it up.

Arrange the fish skin side down on an oiled smoker rack.

Ensure the fire is low for the first 2 hours then increase it. 

Continue smoke-drying until the catfish is flaky and cooked through.

5. Weigh the fishes into units:

When your catfishes are dry and cooked through, you should weigh them.

Usually, they should weigh 250g, 500g, and 1Kg.

You can sell the processed fish at this point or you can pack if you’re branding.

6. Packaging:

For large-scale catfish processors, you can package, and seal them in branded cellophane or polythene bags.

Sealing it will prevent dust and germs from the fish.

Package it according to weights for sale.

Tips on how to run a successful catfish smoking business

If you want to run a successful catfish processing and packaging business that will stand for a long time, here are some tips to abide by;

  • Always use fresh or live fish.
  • Either use a melange (300g-600g) or the table sizes (600g- and above) for processing.
  • Supply what your target market wants.
  • Do not smoke-dry over too much smoke. This will cause the fishes to taste bitter and cause high PAH(poly-cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).
  • Always clean and remove the oil and ashes in the oven. 

Frequently asked questions about catfish processing and packaging

Do I have to be a catfish farmer to start a catfish processing and packaging business?

Absolutely not.

You do not have to own a catfish farm or raise one or even understand what to feed them to process and package them.

All you need is knowledge, skill, and determination and you can make big money smoking catfish.

Where can I market my processed catfishes?

One of the questions that plague catfish processors is “where do I market my processed catfish?”

The idea is simple, you can supply your processed catfishes to;

  • Malls
  • Markets
  • Supermarkets
  • You can export.

How can I smoke-dry my fish with little or no smoke?

All you have to do is avoid using firewoods or sawdust to process your catfish.

Also, you can get a customized smoke/drying machine that can dry 200 fish per batch.

How much will I make from the catfish processing and packaging business?

The profit you will get will depend on your location.

Here’s a coating we did in Nigeria to get the average profit you’re likely to get in this business;

1Kg of catfish costs N600.

Processing/Packaging costs less than N100.

That’s a total of N700 processing costs.

Most farmers sell at N900 to supermarkets who in turn sell at N1,000.

From this analysis, a Nigerian catfish processing business earns an average of N200 profit per fish.

Assuming your process and sell 400 fish in a week, you will be making an average of N320, 000 per month.

What’s the average cost of starting up a catfish processing and packaging business?

Still using our case study from Nigeria, you can start the business with about N500,000. 

This amount will cover;

  • 100+ catfish
  • Nafdac registration
  • Business name registration
  • Smoking and sealing machine

What should be the percentage of salt in the catfish brine water?

Ensure the cleaned fish are soaked in a salt solution containing 30% salt.

100g of salt should be added in 1 litre of clean water to make brine.

How long does a processed fish last?

The shelf life of a processed fish depends on how dry it was processed and packaged.

Usually, it does not last up to 5 months.

How long does it take for a catfish to dry?

The length of time to smoke-dry a fish will depend on;

  • Fish size 
  • Thickness of the fish
  • Smoke-drying mechanism 


So now you see, you can start up your own catfish processing and packaging business effortlessly if you follow this guide.

However, ensure you do a market survey in your own area to find out the cost of fish and the equipment you will use to run this business effectively.

Using a dead catfish is the first step to branding your catfish processing business bad!!!

Have you ever smoke-dried your fishes, which of the above-mentioned mechanisms did you use?

Drop your answers in the comment section!!!


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  1. Stefort agro allied ventures says:

    Thank you so much.

    1. Mbazu Chibuzor says:

      You are welcome.

  2. Stefort agro allied ventures says:

    This wonderful and really encouraging. God bless you.

    1. Mbazu Chibuzor says:

      I am glad that you found this guide on the catfish processing and packaging business encouraging.
      God Bless you too.

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