The Chairman of Duro Investment and Livestock Farms Limited, Lagos, Adekunle Bolorunduro, believes that catfish farming, despite challenges that face it, is a lucrative venture. He also confirmed that it could be very expensive to run, taking into consideration his 40 ponds constructed 40 years ago.
According to Bolorunduro, each pond has 2,000 fishes and in all, the investment has the capacity to produce over 10,000 catfishes monthly. He also spoke on market share and the exigent need for government’s intervention in the business.
I am a civil engineer by profession but I was into fish farming. I am majorly into catfish business. Catfish farming is less risky to run because catfishes have a longer life span than the rest. Some fishes can’t stay up to two hours when taken out of water but catfishes can. They can even stay alive for up to 24 hours when taken out of water. That is why it is more advisable to go into the business. I would say that the major thing that has kept me going is my interest and passion for the business.
You can estimate the value of the business yourself. When I started the business over 40 years ago, I was buying a plot N10,000 but today, a plot here is N22million. Now imagine the number of plots of land this investment is sitting on today, not to talk of the infrastructure.
I pay an average of N100,000 every month. I can only say I get value for what I use due to the prepaid meters I use. The major challenge is that power supply is poor. We put on the generator set now just for me to show you around and explain how the process is. There must always be constant water flowing into the pond because fishes cannot stay alive when there is no fresh and flowing water. How can we have that when there is no regular electricity? Once you are above a certain age, medical experts tell you to only feed on fishes but how do people like us continue to produce when we are regularly affected by the challenge of poor power supply? Another challenge is the inability of people to patronise local farmers. If a Chinese puts up something for a certain amount of money, our people will rush to patronise him but when it is a fellow Nigerian that tells you to buy fishes for a certain amount, people often refuse to patronise you. What is the value that a Chinese will give to you that we cannot find here? Sometimes we even do better than they do but our people don’t just understand this. When they don’t patronise you, you know you cannot continue. That’s how the business dies. If I keep feeding the fishes and my sales is not improving, can I continue the business? Government should start addressing this challenge too.
Well, our products are in the market. People buy but they just don’t buy at the production cost and that is the problem. Ten years ago, government mobilised about 15 fish farmers to be producing here. Today, as I speak to you, none of the 15 people is still in the business. I am the only one still in the business. This was where we were holding the meeting but they couldn’t continue. I can’t discontinue the business because the money I have spent on infrastructure alone is so much. If you want to build the type of ponds I have here today, even with N200million, you cannot achieve it. I constructed the ponds over 50 years ago and in another 50 years, if my children still want to continue with the business, they don’t need to build any pond again. I try as much as possible to build a legacy in business. What I leave behind is what I want to be remembered for.
What we have here can feed the whole of a local government. We can have over 10,000 fishes up for sale, every month. Once we know that the customers are coming, we will keep producing. It is profitable but the major problem is feeding the fishes. If we are sure of a ready market, what we have here is capable of producing as many fishes. The fingerlings are produced by us and even the feeds. All that is just to save the cost of production. In each pond, we have 2,000 fishes and we have 40 ponds. Check that out. When you check anywhere around you, you will hardly see any of such capacity for fish farming. But then, the fishes have to continue to eat, whether you are making money or not. That is the only way they can stay alive.
There is competition in this line of business but it is not so strong. You are the one that will quit the business when you cannot meet up with demands and challenges. If you are in the business and you are spending more than you are getting, you maybe forced to go and look for something else. The problem is that government intervention is so poor. All we have as achievement, as a country, is increase in population, despite our mineral resources endowment. Government needs to do more.
The first is that government should improve on power generation and supply. If you know how much I spend on electricity generation, you will marvel. When you don’t spend such money, fishes cannot stay. There must be constant water for them and the water must be moving to make it feel that it is a natural habitat for them. If you put them in stagnant water, they will be restless because naturally, they need moving water due to the pressure it generates.
There are procedures in breeding and also in pond management to make the fishes survive. We produce the fingerlings ourselves and we don’t have to buy. We have some fishes in special ponds for just fingerlings production. We have a place we hatch them. Hatching refers to taking male and female fishes and making them lay eggs. They lay eggs within 24 hours and that’s how we get our fingerlings. The fishes in each pond total 2,000 and all we basically do is get what they need to survive. It takes six months to raise them from fingerlings before moving them to the market. You must also know that there are feeds for different sizes of fishes. If you don’t feed the big fishes very well, they will eat up the growing ones immediately. The kind of water you put them in also matters. It is treated water. Fishes, especially the young ones, need treated water to survive. The big ones can still survive water that is not treated but the small ones cannot.
We decided to build a feedmill to ease the cost of production. In our feedmill, we produce the different feeds for different sizes of fishes. Again, recently, we started producing smoked fishes and we already got a NAFDAC registration number for it. I have also trained many students. Most tertiary institutions in the South West here send their students to us on lT and we train them. I have had to teach most students in my classroom here.
Large scale production
To have a pond which houses 2,000 fishes, you have to provide sufficient water for them. You have to bear in mind what that costs. If you want to breed fishes, you must be willing to please them with what they need. For large scale production, you have to be willing to invest a huge amount of money and that’s how you can get money from the harvest. When the fish you have is not enough to make profit, you will know that you are not in business. You will know when your profit is increasing constantly but it requires so much hardwork. It is not so profitable because of the huge risk involved but when you increase your investment in the area of infrastructure and fingerlings, that’s when you can boast of a huge turnover. Then, you must produce what they eat in abundance. You have the fingerlings, juvenile and the big. They don’t all eat the same feed. You need some training and expertise, else, you are not in business yet. Some people only major in producing fingerlings and sell to juvenile producers. The juvenile are the ones a bit bigger than fingerlings.
When many come to me, I tell them that the business is a good one, particularly because it gives you the ample time to monitor it yourself. It is also helping my physical fitness because I always have to move around the farm.