In what may be a first, the highest production cost for fish farmers is not electric power supply but fish feed, which accounts for up to 70% of the total cost of farmed fish production in Nigeria.
This data was obtained in a fish feed study published by the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) in December, 2017. The study, titled ‘Fish Feed Value Chain Analysis in the Niger Delta’, is an update of an earlier study by PIND in 2012. It identified various types of fish feed consumers and characterized them into four market segments; subsistence own-farm-made-feed consumers; small emerging commercial farmers; medium to large farmers; and institutional buyers of feed. These consumers contribute to the overall fish feed requirement of Nigeria.
Fish feed is a high-in-protein formulation of plant or animal materials containing other required nutrients like fats, fiber, vitamins, macronutrients and trace elements in the right proportion required for good health and better growth of fish. Feed producers obtain protein sources from different materials as they try to achieve the right balance between cost and quality in addition to meeting the requirements of their target market segments.
The total volume of feed consumed in Nigeria in 2016 was estimated at 507,000 metric tonnes. Of that figure, the Niger Delta accounted for 30% of that consumption. Whilst there are no official figures showing the volume of feed consumed in the region, it can be inferred from the data obtained from large fish producers that since 30% of what they produce is sold to farmers in the Niger Delta, then the region consumes that amount of fish feed for their aquaculture value chains.
Many may not be aware that 93% of the fish feed consumed in Nigeria in 2016, which is about 473,000 metric tonnes, was produced by local producers as opposed to imported products. This was triggered by the devaluation of the Nigerian currency – the Naira – in 2016 by the government in a bid to wade off recession which led to a 30% loss in value by the Naira against the United States of America Dollar, causing a consistent increase in the prices of goods and services and increase in the cost of importing products into the country. Due to this, in the last two years, fish farmers have shown more preference for locally produced fish feed as they can no longer afford to buy imported feed.
This finding resonates with that found in a 2016 study carried out by PIND on the effects of Naira devaluation on four agricultural value chains in the Niger Delta; aquaculture, cassava, palm oil and poultry. Both studies found that an increase in the prices of the materials used to produce fish feed caused a corresponding increase – as expected – in the price of the fish feed itself. Prior to the devaluation of the Naira, a 15kg bag of locally produced and imported catfish feed sold for the same price of ₦6,000. Afterwards, the same products were sold at ₦6,500 and ₦11,000 for locally produced and imported catfish feed respectively. So it was not surprising that only 7% of the total volume of feed consumed in Nigeria in 2016 were imported. What this means is that local producers of fish feed are already replacing foreign companies in the fish feed value chain sector and reaping what seems to be a benefit of the Naira devaluation.
This may be good for local producers, as it translates to increased productivity and income. But this raises certain red flags about the quality of the feed.
PIND’s fish feed value chain study showed that importers of fish feed comply with regulatory agencies’ standards, which make their products trustworthy. Large and medium manufacturers also comply with global standards. But dominating the fish feed production market – and producing an aggregate of about 70% of the feed consumed in Nigeria – are the small and micro producers who may not know that there are standards to be met or do not care for the bureaucratic processes involved in getting approved certification for their products. The obvious result (and thus problem) is that the bulk of locally produced fish feed in Nigeria are mostly of poor quality poor quality. This scenario throws up more fundamental questions: Are the feed poor enough to affect the quality of fish produced? Are there enough protein sources to ensure adequate protein to other nutrients ratio to overlook the poor quality? Would the farmed fish become more fatty and less healthy? How would this affect the average fish consumer in the Niger Delta?
So far, this has not posed a problem to the average fish feed consumers as they are more concerned with the availability of the product than the quality of it.
But it is certainly one of the key constraints PIND has found in the fish feed value chain. Other constraints include bridging the demand and supply gap, changing behavioral patterns around feeding practices, linking viable supporting structures and regulatory environment to smallholder farmers, working on sector dynamics to improve the overall straits of fish feed producers in the region and generally facilitating economic development for sustainable growth in the value chain.
To address the challenges around quality, PIND’s study recommends that regulatory bodies like the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), Nigerian Institute of Animal Science (NIAS), African Regional Aquaculture Centre (ARAC), Fisheries Society of Nigeria (FISON), the Federal and State Ministries of Agriculture, and the Agriculture Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) work together to educate producers on the necessity for standards, enforce fish feed production meets international best practices and strengthen the industry to cater to Nigeria’s growing demand for fish feed.
Since 2012, PIND has been working in the aquaculture sector in the Niger Delta, addressing key systemic constraints impeding the growth of the sector and the competitiveness of farmers in the sector such as fish farming practices, access to finance, and access to improved technologies. This is followed by action plans and intervention designs aimed at addressing these types of constraints using a market system approach that address the root causes of poverty in the region in a localized and sustainable manner. PIND has designed various interventions in this sector that have been proven to improve the quality and quantity of fish yields in the region and facilitated the creation of jobs in the sector in the Niger Delta.