I know a lot of people who have failed in this catfish business in Nigeria. I’ve visited several fish farms in Nigeria spread across all the different states in the country. I learn and observe to identify what makes the difference between the successful ones and the unsuccessful ones. So, let’s start the journey into learning how to run a successful catfish farming business!
The truth is not everybody is making profit from catfish farming. People may raise fish successfully, but that’s not the objective. The question is;
- Did they raise it profitably?
- Is the farm sustainable?
- Can it stand alone as a business and take care of its bills?
After studying long and hard, I have observed some difference in the farms that have stayed functional for 3 years and more and the over 50 percent of catfish farm ventures in Nigeria that close up within 2 years of launching. Here are 7 factors that make the difference-
Most Nigerians just rush into a business because they hear of a certain Mr. Lagbaja who is a catfish farmer and is ‘making it’. ‘In fact, ti e ba ri bi eja won se tobi? (Translates to- In fact, if you see how big their fish is!). Let’s just get one fact out of the way, the size of the fish on a farm does not equate to the success or failure of the fish farm as a business.
For a farm to be successful, deliberate efforts and planning must have been put in prior to the commencement of the business. These planning should inadvertently touch the following…
I have come across many people who tell me, ‘Akinfish, I have land in so and so place, and I want to do fish’. Yes, I understand that one has to maximize the resources one already has, but what do we do when the land is not suitable for fish farming? Is there water in or around the land? Does it have a high water table? This is one of the most important factor to be considered to be successful in catfish farming in Nigeria and people just gloss right over it. It is AQUA-culture, meaning growing life inside water.
Suffice to say, water must be in abundance for a successful catfish venture. I have turned down projects because I knew it would be a struggle because of the lack of water after the borehole survey test. Some clients have stubbornly carried on their projects only to struggle, struggle and struggle. On one hand, some lands or sites are just awesome for fish farming, either because of their proximity to a river or dam, huge water body or a water runoff path etc. While some other locations are just disasters waiting to happen. Water na their own enemy as Fela Anikulapokuti did not sing :).
People don’t want to pay for knowledge. When you get and pay for the right training or consultant for your fish farming project, realise that you are not only paying for his general knowledge that you can read off the internet yourself, you are also paying for his experience and mistakes in the past. He knows what would work and what won’t. He knows what sounds theoretically possible on paper and what really happens in reality.
Do you know you can even visit fish farms and get training first hand from their managers? You can visit farms running all the different types of pond systems: earthen ponds, concrete ponds, water re-circulatory systems, tarpaulin ponds and then decide how to start your own project. Click here to see the next of such practical training that you can attend.
Human beings are famed as one of the most difficult objects to master. Staff treatment and attitude can be the major problem of a farm.
I once worked for a fish farm that had over 10 farms in different states in Nigeria and over 20 staff in the branch where I was posted. This particular branch of the farm had issues with its productivity and would you believe that one of the things that brought a turnaround was the introduction of games and relaxation for the staff.
In a fish farm, depending on the scale, once the staff feed and change the water of appropriate ponds as at when due, they ‘can’ become idle. So, rather than running a 8-4 schedule on a farm, why not offer staff a flexible work schedule to ensure they would be around when the fishes need them to.
There are tricks to this even if you as the owner would not visit the farm often. There are ways to monitor the cleanliness of your water and ensure your farm resources and feed are not being stolen!
The truth is for a Clarias gariepenus farm (Don’t worry, you are safe, it’s just the scientific name of our African catfish), the feed costs amount to about 70 percent of the expenses on a fish farm. The lower your feed costs, the more profitable your venture is.
Some people say catfish can eat anything, but I say if you give them anything as feed, you can expect to see anything as your result. The way forward in Nigeria is the production of our own feed. Either embracing our local branded and bagged feeds or engaging indigenous feed makers to make the fish feed based on a formula that works.
I have my fish feed formula that works for me, and it consistently gives me results. I suggest you research on and do the same, subject it to a feed conversion ratio test to ensure it is efficient. Do the tests on your farm and keep being open to keep the costs of feed down!
6. Business Sense.
See, we all know how to milk opportunities differently. Some people excel at marketing their fish to pepper soup joints, and they make a healthy profit off the regular weekend supplies. While others face their processed fish and market to supermarkets and home consumers.
The catfish export market is probably one of the most underutilized export potential that Nigeria has. We have the fish! That much is sure. The logistics of going through the channels for export can be frustrating. However, some people do it and focus on that.
We keep hearing there is a huge gap between Nigeria’s demand for fish and the fish reared in the country. How do you want to plug in? How are you set to plug in? Who is your target market? How do you expect to sell your fish? Catfish is pricier in some states in Nigeria than other locations. Can you open a sales outlet in such a place or get a marketer for your produce there?
7. You want the 7th one?
You want me to tell you everything here? You should call me on 08161385163 and let us discuss about your fish farm. Fish farming is here to stay in Nigeria. I would respond to your thoughts, comments and questions.
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