|COMMERCIAL FISH FARMING POISED
TO TAKE OFF IN ZIMBABWE1
J.D. Balarin1, A. Chishawa2 and R. Evans3
|The FAO Regional Office in Accra, Ghana, recently initiated a survey of aquacultural development in the region. The directory generated for Zimbabwe lists 57 commercial fish farmers. The results suggest there is a recent resurgence of interest in large scale fish farming in Zimbabwe.|
Zimbabwe has no tradition of aquaculture, although the concept was first introduced as early as the 1950s. The main activities at that time were stocking farm dams and commercial trout farming in the Eastern Highlands. Intensive research was also initiated at the then Henderson Research Station but the aquaculture section closed in the 1960s and developments in general appear to have remained relatively static until the 1980s.
Since the late 1980s, with the establishment of ALCOM in the region and the reactivation by FAO of the Henderson Research Station, there has been a marked increase in support to small scale community-based aquaculture. At the same time, a healthy interest has developed in commercial fish farming.
Annual fish farm production in 1984 was estimated at 800 t. However, the estimates of potential output from proposed commercial projects were as high as 2 500 t/yr.
In 1986 and 1987 the Agricultural Extension Services organized two Fish Forums to discuss aquacultural issues. Although there was a high degree of interest, a number of planned aquacultural projects did not materialize. The severe drought of 1991-92 caused some efforts to be abandoned. Coupled with this, the advent of ESAP (Economic Structural Adjustment Programme) and the entry into the market in 1993 of an estimated 43 000 t/yr of relatively inexpensive horse
mackerel from Namibia, led to a further decline in commercial fish farming efforts. The opening of the economy meant that commercial fish farms, especially those located in marginal climatic zones, were no longer economically competitive with cheap imported fish now available on the local market.
A 1992 ALCOM
survey in Zimbabwe estimated annual aquacultural production of 750 t. More recently, a
survey by National Parks and Wildlife has shown a noticeable recovery in the commercial
sector with an estimated annual production at 1100 t in 1994. The current survey by FAO
estimated 1995 production from the commercial sector alone was 1655 t. Future prospects
seem bright. Interest is being shown by external investors with markets for top quality
tilapia fillets. A number of large scale production facilities ranging from 2 000 to 5 000
t/yr are currently being considered for Kariba and the Zambezi River by ventures in
Zimbabwe and Zambia.
This study was carried out on behalf of the FAO Regional Office for Africa in Accra in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Department of National Parks and Wildlife. Targeted individuals were sent a postal questionnaire asking for current information about their aquacultural enterprises. The questionnaire was also circulated through the Commercial Farmers Magazine. In all, 57 returns were received, reviewed and a directory compiled. This directory will be published by FAO as part of a series listing all fish farms and aquacultural institutions in Africa.
Current status of commercial aquaculture in Zimbabwe
Most fish farms are relatively small, 56 % were of a production level below 20 t/yr (Figure 1) and only 6 producers reported yields over 50 t/yr. The bulk of production (45%) comes from a single farm on the Zambezi, presently averaging 750 tons and with plans to expand to 2 000 tons annually. Over 87 % of respondents were using ponds and 55% had tank systems while cages were of lower interest (16 %). Yields were below 5 t/ha/yr for 52 % of farms. Most farms (63%) relied on rivers as the main nutrient input but a significant number (46%) used commercial fish feeds.
In the near
term, plans are underway to develop three large commercial farms producing tilapia fillets
for the export market. These proposed production units could eventually produce a total of
over 6 000 t/yr. The recent upsurge in interest in tilapia fillets on the American and
European markets has inspired considerable commercial interest in growing the fish in
Africa, capitalizing on the warmer climatic conditions and relatively cheaper resource and
Forecasts by Fish Farmer and Fish International are that the demand for tilapia fillets on the USA market will continue to increase. Priced at US$4-5/kg (1994 prices), this lucrative market is opening opportunities for producers in tropical climates where the fish could be produced at more competitive prices. As has been the example of the horticulture and ostrich industries, Zimbabwe may also be well placed to cater for this growing export market for high quality tilapia fillets.
[1:Reprinted from ALCOM Newsletter Oct 1996, No.23.The
Aquaculture for Local Community Development