So argues a new blog by Aqua-Spark*, which looks at the state of the region’s catfish farming sector and assess what potential there is from an investment perspective.

The blog notes that Nigerian catfish production alone is greater in volume terms than all of sub-Saharan Africa’s tilapia production. However, following strong growth in the first decade of the 21st century, it has since stagnated – largely due to issues with quality feed and seed.

Despite this, the report notes a growing level of professionalism emerging in both breeding programmes and feed provision (Skretting, for example, is now developing a feed mill in Nigeria). Unlike tilapia much of the country’s catfish production is on the fringes of large cities, close to its key markets – offering different opportunities.

One clear advantage of farming the air-breathing catfish is the high density production potential. Indeed, the blog quotes a report from FAO, that suggests that a typical backyard 4m x 3m x 1.3m concrete tank can produce 150 kg/m3 per 6 month cycle, while this can be increased to around 400 kg/m3/cycle by using simple RAS methods.

“We expect catfish production to already have significant potential relatively soon in and around cities where farmers can grow the fish in tanks and RAS,” the blog states. “With Africa’s rapid population growth and urbanization rate in mind, farming catfish in (peri-)urban environments is a great opportunity. The fact that catfish, contrary to tilapia, is often consumed as a smoked fish means that also in the downstream supply chain, the catfish industry offers job opportunities in the processing segment.”

Despite this the blog notes that marketing catfish outside its strongholds in Nigeria and Ghana “may require considerable marketing efforts”.

The fragmented nature of the catfish producing sector means that it’s a less obvious target for investment than tilapia – where some large-scale cage farms are proving successful. However, according to Aqua-Spark, there are still investment opportunities.

“Aqua-Spark will target our investments towards larger companies that can become platforms for growth for broader aquaculture industries through local outgrower programs. In this model, smaller entrepreneurial farms can get all their inputs and sell their outputs through these larger platforms; the larger producers can support the successful growth of the fish but also the processing into value-added products and the development of a larger market for the catfish products. Both in Nigeria as well as in other countries such as Ghana, we’re already on the lookout for catfish producers that can take on this role and need investment to grow. If you are yourself, or you know of, a producer that fits this description, get in touch with us,” the blog concludes.

*Hatch is part of Aqua-Spark’s investment portfolio, but The Fish Site retains editorial independence.

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