By TCB & Associates
Many species of fish are farm-produced all over the world, but catfish has to take the lead because of its uniqueness. Data available shows that 260 million kilograms of catfish were produced compared to 5 million kilograms of Tilapia, 7.7 million kilograms of Crawfish/ Crayfish/Shrimp; 2.68 million kilograms of trout; and 50 million kilograms of salmon in the United States of America alone. The demand for catfish in Nigeria is unprecedented so much that no matter the quantity supplied into the market is consumed by ready buyers. This is so because of its low caloric value, low carbohydrate content, high in protein, low in fat, it is quick and easy to prepare and above all, it tastes great.
According to a lecturer in the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Management, the University of Ibadan, “Catfish can be raised either to fingerlings, juvenile or grow-out using different facilities such as an earthen pond, concrete tanks, reinforced plastic tanks, wooden trough and or cages. The construction methods and management of these rearing facilities, however, differ from each other. The choice of facilities also depends on some factors such as location, availability of water, land, intensity of culture and choice of the farmer.
To ensure better growth and higher survival in catfish farming, regular monitoring of water quality parameters such as dissolved oxygen, Ph value, temperature, nitrate, ammonia, water hardness and alkalinity is very important”.
Opportunities in catfish farming
Continuing, he says, “There are several opportunities opened to catfish farming in Nigeria. It only requires proper planning, hard work and dedication, the correct choice of culture system and effective supervision of the day-to-day activities on the farm. Investors should seek professional advice at every stage in order to succeed”.
It is the desire to succeed against all odds that led to the establishment of Area Farms in Lagos which specializes in catfish production.
Why catfish farming?
According to Mrs Comfort Areo, the General Manager of the farm, “I went into catfish farming a few years ago after I lost my business centre and was under critical financial constraints to meet my household obligations. Hence I needed a business that was less risky and requires minimal capital outlay. However, catfish farming was the best option that came to my mind and I fell for it because I have always had an interest in agriculture and have been successful in such ventures”.
“We started our catfish business with about 1500 fingerlings and about N40.000.00 state-up capital. Right now, we have a much higher population of fish in our ponds. The fingerlings were purchased in the open market and from other catfish farmers who specialize in the production of fingerlings or hatcheries. So far, I must admit that I have not regretted going into catfish farming and even wished I had started much earlier.”
“Matured catfish are sold off after six months of rearing at one kilogram each or depending on the level of demand by consumers. Some of our clients do not have the patience for our fish to attain the required weight of one kilogram before they come calling to sell the fish off. I do not blame them since what we produce despite the large quantity does not even meet their demand. Mind you, the demand for catfish is all the year-round”.
“What are the major challenges of the business?” She says, “the challenges of catfish farming are numerous which include very high cost of feed, the need for constant and freshwater supply, inconsistent energy supply to power our water pumping machines. We depend mainly on power generators to do this which is very expensive and the need for adequate land for expansion. It is always advisable to operate this kind of business on one’s own land; the need for daily monitoring of the fish, water must be replenished every day to prevent odour that could harm or kill the fish and so on. Despite these challenges, catfish farming is a business I would advise people to go into as it is less risky unlike other business,
It has minimal stress and profitable. Seeing your fish grow gives some level of excitement I cannot explain except you are involved in the business. Above all, it is fun especially when feeding them and observes how they struggle amongst themselves to get a piece of the action”.
“For new entrants, they could start off on a low scale with about 500 fingerlings to a maximum of 10,000 depending on the availability of space. They should only start with what they can manage especially when one considers the cost of feed which is fairly high”. One or two persons could be employed to assist in the daily operation of the business as it could be a bit difficult and stressful to do it alone. Finally, it is a business worth investing in because returns on investment are quite encouraging”, she concluded.