From an economic point of view, the fishery sector is an important sector in Nigeria. The sector provides millions of jobs; directly and indirectly.  Small-scale farmers constitute 80% of the total market; supplying about 85% of the country’s domestic fish production.  Notwithstanding, this large production, the demand for fish outweighs production.

According to FAO 2018 “state of the world fisheries and aquaculture report”, since 1961, the average annual increase in global apparent food fish consumption (3.2%) has outpaced population growth of 1.6% and exceeded that of consumption of meat from all terrestrial animals, combined (2.8% and individually (bovine, ovine pig, other), except poultry (4.9%). According to the report, the expansion in consumption was driven by increased production, reduced wastage, better utilization, improved distribution channels and growing demand, linked with population growth, rising incomes and urbanization. Based on the assumption of higher demand and technological improvements, total world fish production (capture plus aquaculture, excluding aquatic plants) is expected to continue to expand.

In Nigeria, the contribution of the fisheries sub-sector to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has continued to increase from 1.1% in 1995 to 3.2% in 2007 and is expected to reach 5% in 2020.  Apart from this buoyant annual growth rate, which consequently will generate more income, fish has a wide and good nutritional value. Fish protein which is ranked the cheapest among animal protein sources provides high-quality calories, fats and vitamins.

Fish farming is viable but there are some militating factors. Among these are; inadequate quality brood stock, poor quality fish seed, cannibalism, diseases, poor local aqua feed, high cost of imported feed, poor supply of locally manufactured feed, poor infrastructure within hatcheries and grow out farms, poor coordination of value chain actors, scarcity of fingerlings, poor access to modern technologies and inappropriate management practices, poor extension services to promote adoption of new technologies to interface between extension technologists and fish farmers, and lack/inadequate policy support.

On fish feed, fish feed takes about 70-80% of fish production cost. This suggests that if fish farmers can reasonably reduce cost of feed and/ properly manage feeding following the Best Management Practice (BMP), a significant increase in profit margin will be recorded. However, it is well noted that high quality feed gives better fish growth performance, but costs more money.

Therefore, it is necessary to consider these constraints, before venturing into the business.  Notwithstanding, not only is it a very profitable business; it has continued to be a good source of employment. There has been a tremendous growth in employment, from creating about 469,000 jobs in 1980 to 1,190,000 jobs in 2016.

fish ponds

Notwithstanding, not only is fish farming highly viable, profitable and sustainable, it has a lot of opportunities and can generate good revenue given its rank as the cheapest among animal protein sources. Fish provides high-quality calories, fats and vitamins. Furthermore, it generates income for all categories of people involved in the value chain and as well can serve as a viable source of foreign exchange for the nation.  The business is simple and easy to start.  With little money and space one can start off.

You can start and invest in any of the value chains as a producer, monger or processors. The producers buy material, feeds, etc necessary for the rearing of fish and sell the fish to processors and/or consumers either directly or through the mongers/middlemen.  The fishmongers/middlemen buy from the producers and sell to the processors or to the final consumers.  The processors have links with the mongers as well as the producers.  They may buy directly from the producers or go through the mongers. The consumers link directly and indirectly with producers, middlemen/marketers, processors to purchase fish, fresh and/or processed.

You can start farming on your own; acquire the basic fixed assets. There are wide varieties of production systems, which include Homestead Earthen (Static) Ponds and/ Tanks, Earthen Ponds with Aeration, Flow-through Systems, Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS), Cage Culture Systems, and Integrated Culture Systems (such as Rice-cum-Fish; Pig-cum-Fish; Poultry-cum-Fish; Aquaponics. These production systems could be monoculture (rearing of one fish species in a culture system) or poly-culture (rearing of more than one fish species in a culture system) such as catfish and/or tilapia.  Farmers prefer catfish and tilapia, because they are common, popular, easier to breed, produce rapidly and grow fast.

If you do not want to start a full scale farm, you can partner/invest in a Fish Ville.  FishVille is like a mutual fund, with professional farmers acting as the general partner with pools of investors as limited partners.  There is a minimum investable amount per production cycle, which is typically six months. Returns on investment vary depending on the amount invested.  However, there is a benchmark return, which could be between 10 – 25%.    Investor’s funds in the pool are secured by issuance of insurance bonds or insured by the Nigerian Agriculture Insurance Corporation (NAIC).  Investment in these pools enables investors to have experienced hands to manage the business and thus to have increased productivity, smooth operation and business growth and sustenance.

Fish processing is part of the value chain. It involves buying not the fully-grown/matured fish, typically at 3 months old for processing for consumption. In fact the processors add value to fish farming via smoking. Fish smoking is a way of preserving fresh fish using smoke and heat. Although there are several other methods of fish preservation – freezing, canning, sun-drying, salting and so on, smoking is of high preference. This is because smoking has bacteria-static, bactericidal and antioxidant effects while heat generated from the wood has a dehydrating effect on the fish thereby prolonging the shelf life of the product for months without spoilage. More so, the smoke contains some compounds such as phenol that gives the fish a peculiar taste and odour relish by the consumer. Return on investment is between 15 – 20%.

Idika Aja, ACS writes from Lagos.  For further enquiries comments, send to e-mail or 08034003768


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