For Nigeria to put an end to importation of fish and other aquaculture produce, the Federal Government needs to lift restriction placed on all water bodies, especially underutilised Dams across the country, for easy access to farmers.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, recently disclosed that government is planning to open up over 200 underutilised Dams across the country.
Chief Executive Officer, Choice Fisheries Consults Limited, Remi Ahmed, who stated this during a visit to one of his farms in Isheri Oshun, Lagos, said the best method of practicing aquaculture is to embrace rural aquaculture, as against urban aquaculture, widely practiced by fish farmers, noting that urban aquaculture is not only difficult to operate, it is also expensive, considering the issue of power generation to pump water and other necessary input needed to run the farm.
Ahmed, who has 100 tonnes of Tilapia fish in Ikere Gorge Dam in Iseyin Local Government area of Oyo State, said he faced a lot of challenges, travelling about five times to the area, before he was given access to operate the dam, noting that there are 20 dams in Oyo State, which are wasting away.
“70 per cent of aquaculture products are from cages. The best way to breed fishes is through the use of dam. Quality of dam is good because clear water can easily be achieved. Before now, N120.00 is paid per meter for the dams, which is paid directly to the Federal Government, but now the price has been jerked up with 600 per cent increase, despite their state of disrepair and lack of motorable roads.
“I started the modern aquaculture business in Nigeria and we are really facing serious challenges. It is the same challenges facing catfish farmers that Tilapia fish farmers are also facing. The feed is too expensive. For instance, per kilo of feed was N250, which was around N4, 000 per bag, but now a kilo is N450 and a bag is about N7, 000. The seeds itself (fingerlings) are scarce, that is why people travel to South Africa, Holland to get fingerlings because those in Nigeria are not growing and are susceptible to diseases.”
Speaking about his farm, basically made up of Red Tilapia, known as Orechromic niloticus, with different colours-silver, red and black and another specie called Pangasius, imported from Vietnam, he noted that in his Lagos farm alone, he has five million fingerlings of all the species.
One thing that stands the farm out is his water management system, which is different from the usual “flow through”. Through the technology, the used water and wastes in the cage flow into a container, which recycles the water by separating the dirt and after return it to the cage. He has also adopted the use of solar energy and windmill to generate power, to ensure constant power supply.
To encourage local farmers, he wants government to stop the importation of Tilapia; assist farmers with affordable inputs; provide more friendly insurance policy; introduce single-digit interest rate; and create communities around dams, as practiced in other climes.