Catfish farming in Africa has been increasing over the last few years, particularly in Nigeria. Some constraints, however, limit the production increase. Among them are feed quality and availability, said Dr Hanno Slawski, Aller Aqua Group R&D Director.
He talked about formulating feeds for both the catfish and tilapia markets in Africa at the World Aquaculture conference in South Africa last week.
The mindset of local farmers needs to change so there is a shift away from thinking only about securing the best price per kilo of feed, he argued.
“The debate centers on high quality fish diets versus good enough fish diets. What we were hearing at the conference was the fat and protein levels in our feeds were too high for African market needs. Delegates told us we could lower the fat and protein content in our feeds, and that would be ‘good enough’ for African production.
“However, our results show high-performance feed of stable quality enables faster and more economic tilapia and catfish growth and gets fish market ready earlier than commonly observed.
“Local farmers who have used our feed and were present at my talk were able to support my arguments that the higher nutrient levels will benefit growth performance in those species,” he told us.
The main challenges in African fish farming are economic feed conversion rates, high and consistent physical quality, training and local presence, he said.
Some of the local feeds, particularly the pelleted variety, result in a FCR of four or five for catfish and tilapia, for example, whereas the Danish company’s feeds will enable a much lower FCR for those species, he said.
There is often lack of amino acid and phosphorus balance, poor water stability and a waste of nutrients due to the physical quality of the local feeds, he added.
He has also noted a high dust level in some imported as well as locally produced feeds, which he said should not be occurring in a modern facility.
“If you have 2% dust in feed, that equals 2% less fish growth and equals 2% less income.”
He said it is critical that international feed formulators take account of local production conditions and understand the perspective of local producers.
“It is not about only testing feeds in laboratories in Europe and then exporting them to Africa.
“Fish farming practices in Africa are still not on the same level as in Europe. It would be challenging to explain to local farmers the rationale behind reducing protein raw material inputs and increasing the lysine or methionine levels in feeds to compensate, for example.”
Training, local presence
Production on site helps with those issues. Aller Aqua already has a factory in Egypt, the second largest tilapia producing country, globally, only surpassed by China. It has just added a third production line at that facility, doubling production capacity.
A plant it has set up in Zambia, in collaboration with customer, Yalelo, will produce both starter and grower feeds for tilapia, when it is operational. It is due to go on stream next month.
The initial capacity of that new facility will be 50,000 tons of feed per year, said the Danish firm.
The factory is situated near the town Siavonga, on the shore of Lake Kariba.
Slawski said the fish feed factory gives the Danish company a basis for expansion in Zambia, a country which aims to be self-sufficient with farmed fish, but also enables it to export to neighboring countries such as Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Tanzania and Congo.
Leon Günter, CEO, Aller Aqua Zambia, said: “A core strategy of our market-entry in Southern Africa is to replicate our hands-on training courses for smaller farms, which have proven very popular in Egypt and East Africa.”
The company is investing US$10m in aqua feed technology in the extruded feed plant.
The Danish group also has a sales presence in Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya. It has a deal with a distributor in Rwanda, and has agents in Benin, Cameroon, Senegal and Tanzania. It also has direct export from its German factory, Emsland-Aller Aqua, to Uganda and Madagascar.
The Tunisia, Moroccan and Algerian markets are supplied from both the group’s Danish and German factories.