A lot of people engage in fish farming because of the numerous nutritional values fish has in our the diets . Unlike pork and snail that is often forbidden (especially in East Africa), fish has gained wide consumption across various ethnic groups and religions. Fish serve as an alternative to meat in fasting days when the eating of meat is forbidden among the Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Church.
In addition, More and more people are opting for a healthier alternative to pork, beef, turkey and chicken as a result of the growing concern for healthy meats in the African kitchen.
Africa has extensive marine fisheries that are exploited by foreign commercial fleets. These catches are destined for export and play little role in meeting the continent’s food needs.
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Why Fish Farming?
There is a growing demand for fish in Africa. And as supply is unable to keep pace with the demand of an exploding African population, fish has continued to attract higher prices in our markets.
Haven known this, it is self-evident that there exists a gap, or opportunity for entrepreneurs, to meet the demand of this fast growing market.
Aquaculture and small-scale fisheries offer specific opportunities to grow Africa’s rural economy and reduce hunger and poverty. For the foreseeable future, the bulk of fish in African markets will continue to come from small-scale fisheries. This is especially true for affordable fish products for the poor. It is a key priority in the fight against malnutrition in Africa to first safeguard, and second increase, this supply of highly nutritious food to vulnerable populations.
Fish farming is increasingly becoming an attractive form of aquaculture in Africa. Its practice comes with a lot of business opportunities for the farmer.
Fish farming, or pisciculture as it is called, is the primary form of aquaculture that involves raising fish in tanks, ponds, cages and irrigation ditches for personal use or for commercial purpose.
Types of Fish Grown in Fish Farms
There are a number of different fish species that are raised on fish farms. The most common fish species raised are salmon, carp, tilapia, catfish and cod.
Among all the fishes mentioned, catfish stands out for some reasons:
- Catfish have developed, in addition to gills, an organ (the arborescent organ) that enables the fish obtain oxygen from air when the oxygen levels are too low in water.
- The fish is able to withstand slightly acidic water
- It has relatively Lower-cost feed
- The fish is also an omnivore, meaning it can feed on almost anything
- There are many suppliers of hatchery and juveniles
- The catfish also grows fast, depending on feeding
- Feed suppliers are readily available also
- Catfish can survive in a pond all year-round
- They are easy to farm in warmer climates, and of course, Africa has that perfect climate.
There are a number of catfish species, but the three most prominent ones are blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus), channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus), and flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris).
Fish farming is carried out in two important ways; Nursery Fish farming and the Grow Out Fish Farming. The two systems can either be operated separately or as an integrated process.
Before you delve deep into fish farming business, you may need to analyze the following characteristics of a commercial fish farmer.
Characteristics of a Commercial Fish Farmer
- Plans production around targeted markets.
- Harvests and sells fish based upon a plan.
- Employs technically-trained and knowledgeable personnel.
- The management approach is performance oriented with emphasis on yields, productivity (efficiency of production) and profits.
- Produces for profit.
- Costs all inputs inclusive of own labor.
- Keeps and analyses written records of production, costs and returns.
- Information from farm’s records form the basis for making management decisions. The farm’s records are the key management tool.
Do not wait until you fish is ready for sale before you start looking for buyers. One of the biggest mistakes many fish farmers make is to start looking for buyers only when the fish is ready for sale. At that time, your pond will have attained the maximum capacity at which all the fish stop growing.
The longer the fish stay in the pond after they have stopped growing, the smaller the profit margin. You will spend more in feeding them so they don’t lose weight (which will affect your sale price).
The market is the driving force for commercial fish farming. Its is very important you identify a potential market where you can sell profitably. The price of fish produced, the quantity produced per time and how frequently sales can be done are determined by the market.
Consequently, it is the target market that determines the levels of one’s investment in fish farming, the species to grow, size of harvest and even the size of pond. Therefore, the optimum size of one’s operation, the technology one should adopt as well as what production management strategy the farmer should have is based upon the market they wish to enter.
Decision Making for Fish Farmers
There are some decisions a farmer would have to make based on the physical and financial resources available to him:
1. How many ponds should I have in order to meet my market targets?
2. How can I construct a fish pond, taking into account the size and design of the pond?
3. What number of these ponds can actually fit on my land?
4. How long should my production cycle be?
5. What kind of management should I adopt for timely harvest?
6. What would be the optimum size of fish to produce?
7. Can I meet my customers need from my farm?
8. Should I partner with other farmers in order to meet market demand?
Overall Goal of Fish Farming Business
Your overall goal in the fish farming business should be to supply fish to the market at competitive prices that still allow you to make a good profit. A good way to increase the profit potential of this business is to sell directly to consumers.
The downside to this strategy is that you will only sell a smaller volume of fish at a time compared to the high volumes the middlemen buy. If you are able to get a consistent customer base for your fish, this strategy will prove to be very profitable. It will also cut down the cost of running your business tremendously.