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New plan to reinforce Nigeria’s catfish sector

EU-BMZ-funded initiative FISH4ACP launches strategy for more resilient, efficient and environmentally friendly catfish production in Nigeria

8 June 2023, Abuja – A new plan to reinforce Nigeria’s catfish value chain offers a roadmap to make this massive and vital sector more resilient and efficient in providing affordable food to Africa’s most populous nation, creating jobs and business opportunities, while reducing harm to human health and lessening the burden on the environment. 

“Catfish has been key in feeding Nigeria’s growing population and has improved the livelihoods of many people in our country,” said Dr. Ernest A. Umakhihe, Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development at the launch of an upgrading strategy of Nigeria’s catfish value chain in Abuja today. He added: “To maintain this vital role and face future challenges, new ways are needed to make the sector more resilient and efficient.”  

With over 223 million people, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation. It is also the world’s largest producer of African catfish. Annual production was estimated at 1 million tons in 2021 worth around USD 2.6 billion, according to an analysis conducted by FISH4ACP and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, which underpins the strategy that was launched today. 

The analysis also demonstrated the importance of catfish as a source of income: Nigeria has an estimated 285 000 producers of which small-scale farmers represent over 60%, while the catfish value chain offers employment to some 1 million people. 

However, years of annual growth at over 20% between 2005 and 2015 ended when catfish production started declining in 2016. According to the analysis, increased production costs and a drop in demand fueled by inflation and devaluation of the national currency are behind this.  

In response, the upgrading strategy sees opportunities in efficiency gains, aimed at reducing production costs and bringing catfish prices down to a more affordable level in order to meet the strong market demand. These opportunities include improved practices in feed, fingerling and fish production, management and distribution.   

The strategy is the result of a sector-wide dialogue between public and private sector stakeholders, spearheaded by FISH4ACP, a global fish value chain development programme led by the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), implemented by FAO and funded by the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).  

“FAO is happy to support Nigeria in a blue transformation of the catfish sector, which is so vital for food security, the economy and people’s livelihoods,” said Fred Kafeero​, FAO’s Representative in Nigeria, adding: “FISH4ACP can be an agent of this change and ensure that the benefits will be shared equitably and sustainably.”  

Fred Kafeero explained that FISH4ACP will lead by example in working with selected groups of farmers, as well as with fish markets, on good management and production practices, that could be adopted across the sector.  

He added that the project would promote targeted policies to strengthen the enabling environment for catfish farming in Nigeria and work with partners, including in finance, on schemes to provide feed to farmers on credit. Lastly, he said that FISH4ACP would support fish processors to adapt cleaner smoking methods that would reduce harm to people’s health and to the environment.  

FISH4ACP seeks to enhance the productivity and competitiveness of twelve fisheries and aquaculture value chains in twelve OACPS member countries, making sure that economic improvements go hand in hand with environmental sustainability and social inclusiveness. It pays special attention to small and medium-sized businesses, because of their potential to deliver economic and social benefits, particularly for women and youth.