By Waliu Adeyeri
The Nigerian culture is deeply rooted in superstition, traditional religious beliefs and myths. And entangled in some of these, used to be the reason for the low consumption of catfish in Nigeria. It was erroneously believed that the fish is only eaten for specific reasons e.g by barren women, or those seeking supernatural powers. However, thanks to civilization and globalization, some of these beliefs have been discarded. Amusingly, studies have shown that catfish consumption is still very much low in Nigeria, compared to its imported counterparts.
According to the recent report on the Foreign Trade in Goods Statistics by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in the year 2020, Nigerians spent over N138 billion to import fishes.
A breakdown of the report shows that more than N64 bilion is spent by Nigerians to import Titus fishes during the first and third quarter of 2020 (Q1-Q3’20), while about N74 billion is spent to import other fishes such as herrings (shawa), Blue whitings (Panla), Jack & Horse Mackerel fish (Kote), and others.
Corroborating this report, a survey by TheNewsBeam shows that 100% of the respondents consume fish. But as indicated in the NBS report, many Nigerians prefer imported fishes to purchasing locally reared fishes such as cat fish.
Only one out of ten households eats catfish in Nigeria. The rest complain about the price or identify other factors such as religious beliefs and taboos, earlier stated, as reasons for preferring imported fishes to catfish.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Fish and fish products are recognized not only as some of the healthiest foods on the planet, but also as some of the least impactful on the natural environment.”
Due to these reasons, fish consumption has been an essential means of mitigating food insecurity and malnutrition across the world.
HOW IMPORTING FISHES IS MITIGATING THE LOCAL FARMING OF CATFISH
It’s incontrovertible that the huge cost spend on the importation of fishes into the country poses huge setback for the rearing of local fish such as cat fish in the country.
One of the major variety of fish reared in commercial quantity in the country is cat fish. It has a market prospect that cut across the country.
The offtakers of the products consist majorly of restaurants, hotels, bars, and a minimum number individuals.
A look into the survey carried out by TheNewsBeam confirms that more Nigerians prefer imported fishes to cat fish. 44% of the respondents likes Titus fish, 16.7% likes other frozen fishes while 38.9% likes cat fish.
The Chairman of Three Fold Cord Farm is one of the fish farmers that complained about the negative impacts of fish importation on catfish rearing..
Speaking with TheNewsBeam, the 20-year experienced fish farmer blames the increasing purchasing power of imported fish on the high cost of cat fish.
“Many people are discouraged as a result of the prices. Today, 1kg of Catfish cost around N800-N1000 while Titus and other imported fishes per kg is far cheaper than this.”
Corroborating this view, Fidelix Osigwe, the Chairman Chosyfile Ventures, in Ikorodu Fish Farm Estate, Odogunyan, noted that cat fish is more expensive than imported fishes.
“Catfish is more expensive compared to imported because the fish monger hike the price thereby making the consumer believe that catfish is more expensive so people prefer Titus fish and the likes because they can’t afford catfish.”
WHY IS CATFISH COSTLY?
A common reason identified by these farmers is the hike in the cost of production, the farmers complain that the cost of production is really high.
Some of the factors that affect the cost of production in Nigeria include electricity, high cost of feed, the global pandemic, and other factors.
“I pay huge amount to power my farm, pay the electricity bills yet barely get power supply. For backup, I spend a lot of fund to purchase Petrol and diesel to power the farm,” the Chairman, Threefold Cord said.
Speaking on the implication of COVID-19 on his business, Mr Fidelix said:
“It really affected us. Farmers are the most affected. Our offtakers who are majorly restaurants, hotels, and clubhouses could not patronise us during the lockdown. Yet we have to feed our fishes to avoid another huge loss.”
NUTRIENT BENEFIT OF CAT FISH AND TITUS FISH
It is inarguable that fishes are highly nutritious food that contains some essentials nutrients the body needs. According to a report on Fish and human nutrition carried out by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
“Fish is not only a source of proteins and healthy fats, but also a unique source of essential nutrients, including long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, iodine, vitamin D, and calcium.”
Asides the price of catfish that discourages many Nigerians. The survey carried out reveals that 7.1% of the respondents do not like cat fish while 57.1% highlight other factors which may include religious reasons, too much of fats and oil, impacted their choices.
Identifying an uncommon fact about catfish, Mr Fidelix said catfish can last for as long as 6 months when processed by smoking. According to him;
“Many people feel that imported fishes are better than our fishes. Many are not aware that some of the fishes they import have undergone several preservative methods that could be hazardous to their health.
An Interesting fact about catfish is that, it can be preserved by freezing and it would still maintain its fresh taste. Also, well smoked catfish can last for as long as 6 months and still taste good and healthy,” he added.
PROSPECTS OF FISH FARMING IN NIGERIA
“I see a decrease in the purchasing power of Catfish if the government do not support fish farmers and help reduce the cost of production by providing basic amenities such as electricity.”
That was the view of one of the farmers who spoke to TheNewsBeam at Ikorodu Fish Farm.
He believes that the purchasing power of Catfish would continue to decrease as long as the cost of rearing cat fish in the country is high.
FISH FARMING BUSINESS IN NIGERIA AND IT’S VIABILITY
Asides the fact that coronavirus had huge implications on overall businesses in Nigeria, catfish farming has been identified as a profitable business.
Although, Mr Fidelix Osigwe interest in catfish rearing has been an initial idea of his wife, he is motivated to do more in the business by his passion and the profits he often gathers from the business.
The Chairman of Threefold Cord Farm however on the other hand said he was motivated by ” passion, the passion to feed the nation.”