Like other types of farming, the aquatic sector or fish farming urgently requires the attention of stakeholders to save it from total collapse.
The fear in the sector now is that unless something urgent is done to salvage the situation, it will be difficult for the farmers to meet the huge local demand in the country.
According to WorldFish Nigeria Strategy 2018-2022, Nigeria produces one million metric tonnes of fish annually, leaving a deficit of about 800,000 metric tonnes; which is imported.
However, stakeholders believe the sector is under great threat if the authority fails to take urgent action.
A Lagos-based aquaculturist, Mr. Amah Eteobong, identified capital intensiveness, increasing fish feed cost and poor expertise as some of the challenges facing aqua farming in the country; even before the outbreak of COVID-19.
Mr. Eteobong, a marine farming entrepreneur, said the bottlenecks faced in the aquaculture system had hindered the growth of the sector in the country.
He said, “The challenges currently plaguing aquaculture farming in the country include set-up capital, cost of fish feed and poor expertise.
“Aquaculture is a capital-intensive venture; even if a farmer wants to start small, he is still going to put in a lot of money to start up a fish farm.
“One major challenge in going into the aquaculture business is the bottlenecks we face when it comes to accessing grants and loans. For instance, before a farmer is able to set up a farm and raise 1,000 fishes comfortably, you need to have nothing less than N1m to N1.5m. The farmer needs to invest extensively on the fixed assets on the farm like ponds and boreholes, hence the cost-intensiveness to start up.”
Also, the National Fish Association of Nigeria (NFAN), at the weekend, called on the Federal Government to come to the aid of its members who were in distress due to losses incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
NFAN said its members suffered huge losses during the first two months of the lockdown and were yet to recover from it.
The President of NFAN, Dr. Gabriel Ogunsanya, said the industry required strong government commitment, particularly in terms of policy direction and funding, for fish importation to be banned in 2022 as assured by the Federal Government.
Dr. Ogunsanya said, “As we carry on with the task to meet national fish demand threshold in two years, our farmers require palliatives and economic stimulus packages to remain in business as extended to others.
In seeking solutions, Mr. Toyin Afolabi, another marine farming entrepreneur, urged the government to develop and implement a strategic plan for the sector which would allow interested fish farmers to access soft bank loans.
He said time had come for Nigeria to look inward to tap into the huge potentials in fisheries and aquaculture for local consumption and export.