Fish Feed in Ghana – What are the Options?

Written by By Staff Reporter

Quite understandably, many Ghanaian and African fish farmers believe that feed is the main challenge facing profitable production. They believe that if the cost of commercial feed were lower than the current 70% and more, they would enjoy the rewards of their toil. This belief is, of course, not correct. The success of a fish farm operation depends on a number of other factors, including the location of the farm, the type of soil and water and of course, the skills applied by the owner and personnel.

But fish feed is a crucial factor, and in the last couple of years, fish farmers in several African countries, especially Ghana and Nigeria, have had a lot to worry about. In Nigeria, the increases in prices got so regular that the Catfish Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFAN) mobilized funds from its members and established its own fish feed plant to supply feed to its members and other farmers. This was only partially successful, because even though they were able to shave off a small part of the prices of commercial feed, their prices were still quite high, because of the problem of inadequate supply of the main raw materials, maize and soya meal.

Fish feed shipment in Dar es Salaam

But fish feed is a crucial factor, and in the last couple of years, fish farmers in several African countries, especially Ghana and Nigeria, have had a lot to worry about. In Nigeria, the increases in prices got so regular that the Catfish Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFAN) mobilized funds from its members and established its own fish feed plant to supply feed to its members and other farmers. This was only partially successful, because even though they were able to shave off a small part of the prices of commercial feed, their prices were still quite high, because of the problem of inadequate supply of the main raw materials, maize and soya meal.

Maize is the main ingredient in poultry, pig and fish feeds, but it is also the main human feed ingredient in most African countries. And as is that were not enough, it is also a major industrial raw material. Maize is therefore scarce and expensive, as speculators all over West Africa seek to make profit from trading in it, and several governments resort to imports to meet demand. Soya meal, the protein source in livestock feeds, is also imported as local production is quite low, and in the last year the currency challenges in Ghana have had an impact on soya meal prices. In the latter half of last year, quite a number of farmers cut down production, and others suspended production in the hope that things would improve. Fish feed producers emphatically stated that they were barely making profit due to current production problems, and advised farmers to raise prices to reflect their production challenges.

One interesting approach to the solving the problem which has been researched by African scientists is the use of alternative feed ingredients. Quite a number of them have been found to be viable, but most of them were round to contain anti-nutritional factors, and as such could only be included at limited levels. Cocoa pod husk, for example was been found to be a viable substitute for maize only at 13 per cent. Unfortunately, very little further investigation has been done for over ten years, probably due to the availability of commercial feed, until recently.

Quite a number of fish farmers in Nigeria have acquired feed mills and are producing their own feed. Some of them are including alternatives like duckweed and water lettuce, which have been found to be safe substitutes. But presently they are not grown in commercial quantities, and the development of a production culture might take a while. Mike Boampong, a marine biologist, says that ‘investing resources in producing duckweed and water lettuce sounds sensible, but I believe those resources would be better spent developing the known sources like soya. Ghana grows a decent amount of soya, but surprisingly a significant part of production is exported to Asia. We can increase yield per acre by using better varieties and giving inputs to farmers’.

What should fish farmers do to solve this problem? Mr. Alex Korsah, a large scale maize and soya farmer and agricultural consultant, has advised fish farmers to take initiatives that will enable them to solve the problem of high feed costs. ‘In the interim’, he said, ‘fish farmers have to look for alternatives. Price hikes are the result of both internal and external factors. However, in the long term, a vibrant association that operates its own “collective business model” is key. Continuous reliance on feed producers will mean that fish farmers’ plight will continuously be determined by the business model of feed producers. This will rob them of being in control of their businesses.

In Kenya, three operators in the aquaculture industry have come together to establish a feed mill plant to produce fish feeds for the aquaculture industry. Maxim Agri Holding, Victory Farms and Gatsby Africa have teamed up to establish the SamakGro plant to produce high quality, affordable feed for the local aquaculture industry. Maxim Agri Holding are the managers of the plant. It will start operations in Naivasha early this year, and it is expected to solve the problem of perennial fish feed shortages in Kenya.

There a signs that collaboration among researchers in Ghana and Nigeria would soon see the first commercial feed product based on alternative ingredients. Fish farmers can’t wait to see it.

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