Aquaculture farmers hit hard by high cost of fish feed

A large group of European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) swimming about. [Getty Images]

The high cost of fish feed coupled with the lack of certified fingerlings have been identified as the major challenges facing aquaculture farming in the East and Central Africa region.

In Kenya, farmers are producing 30 metric tonnes (MT) of fish per year which is below the expected capacity.

This emerged during the 2nd General Congress of the Aquaculture Network for Africa (ANAF) organized by AU-IBAR in Naivasha where stakeholders said the country’s annual production of fish has risen sharply in the last three years, with the potential of aquaculture farming standing at over 100,000 metric tonnes.

Director of Fisheries Lucy Obungu said the country’s annual production from aquaculture farming has risen from 4 metric tonnes to 30 metric tonnes in the last three years.

She attributed this to efforts by the national and county governments to support farmers through the provision of certified seeds and markets.

Obungu however decried the high cost of fish feeds saying it was out of reach for many small-scale farmers.

“We have an acute shortage of certified fingerlings but the government is working on various centers of excellence so that we can increase production from aquaculture farming,” she said.

She admitted that illegal fishing in major water bodies was a threat to fish production in the country with hundreds of families relying on the trade for survival.

“The ministry is working closely with the other agencies like Coast Guards to patrol major water bodies and also introduce new fish species that are popular in the market,” she said.

AU-IBAR Director Dr Huyam Salih said that the continent’s aquaculture potential had not been fully exploited mainly due to lack of capital.

Dr Salih announced that AU-BAR was keen to work with member countries to empower communities through policies and capacity building.

“The continent's potential in terms of fish production is very high and through such engagements with stakeholders, we seek ways of fully utilizing these resources,” she said.

The representative of East Africa Community (EAC) in the meeting Dr David Balikowa said that aquaculture farming had changed the lives of many through the provision of food and revenue.

“Apart from lack of certified seeds and high cost of fish feed, the issue of market and influx of cheap imports from Asia still remains a challenge in the sector,” he said.

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