WorldFish discussed COVID-19 impacts with Nigerian aquaculture community

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Thursday 28th May, WorldFish virtually met with several representatives from the Nigerian aquaculture community. They included representatives from Catfish and Allied Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFFAN), Tilapia and Aquaculture Developers Association of Nigeria (TADAN), Fisheries Society of Nigeria (FISON), Nigerian Association of Fisheries Scientists (NAFS), IDIPR Cooperative Farms, fish processors, and corporate sector fish producers and traders. Several issues were brought into the discussion as compelling difficulties currently faced by the aquaculture community.

Most problems faced by fish farmers and processors appear to be centred around the current government-imposed Movement Control Order (MCO) in response to COVID-19. MCO has significantly reduced fish producers’ access to markets. Markets are not open throughout the week for fish sales and access to production inputs, such as feeds, fingerlings, and feed ingredients has also become limited. Consequently, transport costs have gone up significantly and long delays are experienced at checkpoints.

Reduced market access delays harvest resulting prolonged farming cycles. Keeping fish in ponds needs feed and other farm management inputs, requiring additional funds. Farmers are sceptical as to how long they can continue the process with no financial support, and that they will ever be able to sell their produce with profit once the lockdown is lifted. Unfortunately, no good cold-chain facilities exist in Nigerian aquaculture, which prevents possible cold storage during low demand times.

Cast net fisher, Kainji Lake, NW Nigeria. Photo by David Mills.
Cast net fisher, Kainji Lake, NW Nigeria. Photo by David Mills.

Due to lack of demand market price of catfish and tilapia has significantly reduced throughout the country. Job losses are experiencing along fish value chains are some farmers are already dropping off.

Many are worried that Naira will further devalue and already hiking certain grades of commercial fish feeds will become totally unaffordable to smallholders. Farmers also concern that high imported ingredient prices might result in feeds with suboptimal nutrition, due to supplement by cheap local ingredients.

Fish processors are challenged with low consumer demand for smoked fish and increasing processing cost due to increasing price of spices, packing material, etc. Fish processors argue the fact that during COVID-19 pandemic, fish was not considered by the Government as part of the palliative diet to the most vulnerable.

Meeting agreed to examine the short-, medium- and long-term actions could jointly be taken by WorldFish and the Nigerian aquaculture community. Second meeting is scheduled in a week, with possible representation of the Federal Department of Fisheries, to discuss possible measures towards improving the situation.