GULU – Expensive fish feeds have forced more than half of the members of West Acholi Integrated Fish Farmers Cooperative Society, WIFFICOS, out of fish farming.
WAIFFICOS, a fish farmers’ cooperative, was formed in May 2012 with about 102 members from the northern West Acholi districts of Amuru, Nwoya, Gulu and Omoro.
Over the years, membership was extended to fish farmers in the East Acholi districts of Pader, Lamwo and Kitgum.
WAIFFICOS largely mobilizes farmers and resources to improve fish marketing and household income.
However, nine years after its establishment, group membership has dropped from 102 to only 35 members.
Simon Komakech, the chairperson of WAIFFICOS, told theCooperator in a recent interview that some members were driven out of the business by expensive fish feeds. He said they buy fish feeds from Kampala at Shs 3,000 a kilogram. Each fish eats at least two kilograms to gain reasonable weight and grow to maturity in eight to 12 months.
“If one has 2,000 fish fingerlings, they will have to spend Shs 12 million in buying feeds alone, minus other expenses. This eats up a huge margin of our profit,” Komakech said.
He said expensive transport has also forced many cooperative members to sell their fish at fish pond sites and not as a group.
“Transport is expensive so if buyers get the farmers at the pond site, then we consider it a bonus for the farmers,” he said.
However, pond site fish sales are low priced, which diminishes the farmers’ profit margins.
Charles Ocen, a member of the cooperative, said he has three fish ponds that collectively have 2,000 fish. Besides the expensive fish feeds, Ocen said the fingerlings are hard to get. He said fingerlings given by Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) come in varied sizes in the same container, and the tiny ones end up being eaten by the big ones while in the pond.
“Sometimes, the distributors over declare the number of fish in a container, so when we put them in the pond, we end up pouring more feeds than necessary, which translates into a loss,” he said.
Ocen disclosed that the cooperative has also been functioning without an office for the last three years. The office was closed over rent arrears.
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