For a long time, fish farmers have been struggling to feed their fish due to the unavailability of fish feeds in the market.
Many farmers have been forced to use poultry feeds which slow down their growth and affect their weight.
William Kiama, a fish farmer in Kirinyaga says he has been engaging in fish farming since the year 2000.
Kiama said after realizing that there was an unexploited market in the sector, Kiama expanded his fish farming from Tilapia to other varieties. Kiama now keeps over 500,000 fish on his farm but noted that he has been struggling to find the appropriate feeds for them.
“Some farmers have even been using wheat bran. Most of us did not know what to feed them which has been affecting our returns,” he said.
The farmer noted that the market for fish is insatiable and that farmers can also create their own market.
“It is as easy as announcing a sale in the community and you will be swamped with buyers,” Kiama said.
Kirinyaga County Executive Committee member in charge of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Jackline Njogu though not known for fish production, the county has a number of dedicated farmers both in catfish and tilapia. Njogu said the county government has been educating farmers on on-farm fish feeds production and formulation.
“We teach farmers on what products to buy or the crops to grow and how to mix them in a good ratio,” she added.
Njogu said it is unfortunate that most fish farming projects started through the Economic Stimulus Program in 2010 were abandoned as farmers were not well trained in the practice.
It is now the objective of the county government to popularize fish consumption locally to provide a ready market for the farmers.
She, however, noted that the demand is higher than the supply and that most of the fish produced in the county is sold to other counties.
Farmers now have a reason to smile however after Unga Group launched feeds customized for both catfish and Tilapia.
Nick Hutchinson, the managing director Unga Group, said the company has invested in plants that process a range of catfish and tilapia feeds.
Hutchinson who was speaking during the launch of catfish feeds at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute said the feeds have been developed with the partnership of Skretting, one of the largest aquaculture feeds companies globally.
He said Kirinyaga is set to become a significant leader of catfish production in the country and that increased production of fish is vital as an affordable source of proteins for Kenya’s growing population.
“The country does not produce enough fish at the moment and imports a significant amount of tilapia,” he said.
Hutchinson said catfish are eaten filleted and there are a number of end products that farmers can come up with.
While replying to farmers who had complained that the feeds are pricey, Hutchinson noted that the raw materials used such as maize, vegetable proteins, soya beans, animal proteins are very expensive.
He said the country has some of the most expensive raw materials in the world and challenged the government to support farmers to help them increase their productivity and reduce their cost of production.
He also urged the government to ensure any taxes on non-tariff barriers that make it difficult for farmers to trade should be minimized to help them increase their returns.
He, however, pointed out that the company will continue to reduce the cost of production by increasing the volumes of feeds produced.
The company is also working on producing its raw materials without having to import and in June, it commissioned a soya beans meal plant that will cost Sh350 million and will meet about 60 percent of its soya beans meal needs.