May 14, 2009

High aqua feed prices stymie Uganda aquaculture industry

Researchers at the Uganda Fisheries Resources Research Institute in Kajjansi reveal that the major obstacle of Uganda's aquaculture industry is the lack of local, high quality fish feed.


Presenting a paper on Biotechnology Research and Development in Fisheries organised by the National Council for Science and Technology, Dr. Justus Rutayisire said that "fish require a top-quality, nutritionally complete and balanced diet to grow rapidly and remain healthy." Local feed production is critical to the overall success and sustainability of an aquaculture industry in Uganda, he added.


The lead researcher also noted that the natural catch from the country's lakes and rivers had been threatened by increased pollution and unsustainable fishing practices and called for a conversion to fish farming.


He, however, noted that the cost of feed and seed had become too expensive, discouraging farmers from fish farming.


As a result, most fish farmers use kitchen wastes like wheat bran, groundnut cake, and rice bran to feed the fish.


Some of the feeds are animal based while others are plant based. They include: fish meal, blood meal, shrimp meal, corn, soymeal and cotton seed meal.


Although these materials are cheap and available throughout the year, Rutaysirie said they are not good for the fish because they affect yields, thus limiting profits.


He said fish feed must either be floating or sinking and must contain different percentages of protein ratios depending on the age and size of the fish.


With good management, one fish requires 2 kilograms of feed to attain 1kg of weight. The cost of producing a 1kg fish is not less than UGX 2,400 (US$1.06) when other costs such as management and transport are included, it could rise to over UGX 2,800 (US$1.23) a kilogram.


Feed is one of the major inputs in aquaculture production and part of the fundamental challenges facing the development and growth of aquaculture in Africa. Encouragement is therefore needed for farmers to make use of ideal pond fertilisation programmes, non-conventional feed resources, feed stuff processing, refinement and formulations that recognises the requirements of the various species and their stages.


Good nutrition in animal production systems is essential to produce a healthy and high quality product, according to Rutayisire.


Nutrition is critical because feed represents 40-50 percent of the production costs he said as feed prices have been going up due to declining wild fish catch.

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