Nutrition Security: How Nigeria can achieve 2.5m MT fish production target ─Study

*Experts opine that Nigeria as the second largest producer of farmed fish in Africa, after Egypt, still has some way to go before it can achieve the 2.5million metric tonnes aquaculture potential in the economy

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

Researchers have analysed how Nigeria can achieve its target of producing 2.5 million metric tonnes (MT) of farmed fish annually

The experts stated that they believe their work could provide similar insights in other countries of the world.

Experts from the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture, in the United Kingdom (UK), used a scenario analysis for the first time at a national scale for aquaculture in Africa to examine the changes required to meet Nigeria’s target, set in 2017.

Fish as a source of protein

Fish is regarded as one of the cheapest sources of protein, and is already making a significant contribution to feeding the West African country’s growing population.

Dish of fish

However, the current production of farmed fish is around 300,000 metric tonnes per annum, according to Aquaculture Reports.

The researchers also noted that the industry is often overlooked compared to agriculture, which is the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy—and its main export, crude oil.

Suleiman Yakubu, Ph.D, a researcher at the Institute of Aquaculture, disclosed that  “Nigeria is the second largest producer of farmed fish in Africa after Egypt, yet we still have some way to go before we can achieve the 2.5m metric tonnes aquaculture potential estimated by the government.

“We wanted to answer the question, is this achievable by 2035? And if so, how can it be done in a sustainable way?”

Addressing major barriers

The Reports indicated the researchers began by using stakeholder interviews to identify four priority constraints in the Nigerian economy: cost and availability of fish feed; land use; policy intersection and research investment.

They also used scenario analysis—a mix of qualitative and quantitative modeling principles—to assess what combinations of factors would put Nigeria on track towards its target.

Yakubu states that “only one of the wide range of scenarios tested allowed Nigeria to achieve its potential in relation to the critical factors.

“Firstly, improving farmers’ access to quality fish feed through the development of local feed resources is necessary.”

According to him, “at the moment, more than half of fish feed is imported, which is prohibitively expensive and inefficient.”

The scholar said: “Secondly, promoting aquaculture to be part of land use classification in Nigeria would allow the activity to be included in land use zoning plans, and to designate expansion areas for larger production systems.

“Currently, around 80 percent of fish farming in Nigeria is in small-scale ponds in urban and peri-urban areas, with no room for expansion, and no way of monitoring it.”

Yakubu also stated: “Thirdly, the aquaculture Nigeria is the second largest producer of farmed fish in Africa after Egypt, yet we still have some way to go before we can achieve the 2.5million metric tonnes aquaculture potential sector interacts with several other policy areas—such as import policy, land use, water use and poverty alleviation—so those intersections must be incorporated into planning.”

The scholar said: “Lastly, investment in research is essential to better link researchers with the aquaculture industry, in order to increase productivity and yield, while improving our understanding of the impacts of climate change.

“All of these would eventually reduce aquaculture production costs in the country.”

Planning for change

The research further indicated that the scenario analysis has been used to explore the potential of aquaculture on global and regional scales, but not yet on a national level on the  African continent, which the researchers say is more useful to understand and plan for the changes that need to happen.

“Our modeling shows that if things continue as they are, Nigeria will see only marginal development of its aquaculture sector in comparison to where it aspires to be,” Yakubu stated.

Prot. Trevor Telfer, Supervisor on the research, as well said that “aquaculture is expanding rapidly, as is the world’s population, and can offer a sustainable, low-input way of feeding people.

Telfer opined that deploying data in this way to model scenarios offers an innovative method for governments and industry to plan collaboratively for the sustainable expansion of complex sectors such as aquaculture.”

ConsumerConnect reports catfish is also said to be the most farmed fish species in Nigeria.

A recent report as well stated that the aquaculture sector involved in the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish in the West African country grew in production from 21,700 tonnes in 1999 to 316,700 in 2015, which is an over 1,400 percent increase within 25 years.

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