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Teso fish farmers face tough times as feed crisis bites hard

TESO, February 14, 2024 – Fish farmers in Teso Sub-region are worried about the scarcity of fish feeds, a development which they say is taking a toll on the growth of a sector that has been attracting more players of late.

Charles Ibula, the Chairperson Katakwi District Fish Farmers Association [KAFIFA], comprising more than 20 members said that they are facing tough times due to an acute shortage of fish feed.

“We are in a crisis. There is an acute shortage of fish feeds. As I speak, most fish farmers in Katakwi are not able to feed their fish,” he said.

Ibula said there’s no shop currently selling fish feeds in the area, adding that those who were selling the feeds in Katakwi town have diverted to other enterprises.

As a result of lack of a local accompany that produces fish feeds, Ibula said the farmers have to travel to Soroti and other towns to buy the same, incurring transport costs.

“It is sad to note that the feed shortages have happened at a time when more farmers are venturing into fish farming,” Ibula said, adding that lack of enough fish feeds retards the growth of the fish fingerlings in the ponds.

On his part, Charles Omome, one of the renowned model farmers in Getom Sub-county, Katakwi district who has nine fish bonds told theCooperator that shortage of fish feeds is gets worse every day.

He said it takes him between three and five days to feed his estimated 2,000 fish fingerlings reared in six ponds.

According to Omome, the fish feed scarcity at home forces them to travel to the district of Soroti, Mbale and Jinja among others where they cost where they buy a kilogramme at Shs 700, notwithstanding the high transport costs incurred.

“Due to high costs involved in travelling to distant districts to buy fish feeds, I have resorted to using maize brand which I mix with dry silver fish,” recounts Omome.

Though such food is not recommended for fish feed because it retards their growth, Omome says he has no option.

Emmanuel Okwi, another farmer from Morungatuny Sub-county in Amuria district is worried that the 2,000 tilapia fingerlings he is rearing will become stunted due to shortage of feeds.

In a constrained voice, Okwi said he has opted to leave the fish to survive with the little feeds they get from the pond waters.

Ben Epeduno, one of the fish farmers in Ngora district said he has 166,000 cutfish fingerlings but it is a challenge to feed them given that the fish have to feed thrice a day.

According to Epeduno, the shortage of fish feed is topping more people from venturing into aquaculture.

Mary Adeno a fish famer from Serere district also says she is frustrated with the high cost of fish feeds in the region, stating that a 20-kg sack of fish feeds costs about Shs 120,000, which is expensive while fish prices fall monthly.

She appealed to government to intervene through price subsidisation, saying if the price of the fish feeds not checked, it will negatively impact on the aquaculture value chain.

“One of the major hurdles fish farmers are facing is high cost of fish feeds and we want the relevant government authorities to help us look into this,” she said.

She is optimistic that once the fish feeds prices are subsided by government fish farming will become a profitable business.

Farmers discouraged from feeding fish on maize brand, and posho

James Michael Enyaku the District Fisheries Officer for Soroti cautioned fish farmers against feeding fish with maize brand and posho because they lack nutrients necessary for fish growth.

He advised farmers to use amphibious plants which are a favourite food of tilapia fingerlings and adult tilapia, like lemna minor, soirodela polyrhiza, wolffia arrhiza among others.

Amuria  farmers showing Ministry of Agriculture officials their fish ponds recently (Photo by Alexander Okori).

Meanwhile, he said farmers engaged in cage fish farming can use some aquatic plants like water lettuce, water hyacinth or alligator, which he said are good for tilapia.

“The feeds they use should have certain quality of proteins and carbohydrates among other nutrients. What some farmers are doing is not appropriate because it affects proper growth of the fish,” warned Enyaku.

Meanwhile the State Minister for Fisheries, Hellen Adoa days ago advised the famers to have entrepreneurial mindset if they are to succeed in aquaculture.

“The region [Teso Sub-region] has the potential regarding fish business and farming, all you need is an entrepreneurship mindset. You should learn to come up business module, which involves planning and budgeting for your business,” the minister said.

She said that due to dwindling fish stocks in the country’s natural water bodies, people need to embrace aquaculture not only to bridge the current gap but also as an income generating activity.

“There is need for farmers to shift from substance to commercial farming and take advantage of the ready marker for fish both locally and internationally,” Adoa said.

She stated that Uganda needs more that 1.7 million metric tonnes of fish of which 750,000 metric tonnes is expected to come from natural water and the rest from private fish farms.

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