Monday John, in his 60s, is a retired soldier. He is into cat fish farming. In this interview with CORRESPONDENT, he speaks on why he ventured into the business and how he has been coping without any support from government.
How did you start this fish farming business?
I started the business of cat fish rearing when I retired as a service man some years ago. I was also encouraged by some of my friends who were doing the business and based on that I learnt about the business and started it.
Though, I have ventured in some businesses before now but I am not that comfortable with the outcome of it that is why I deviated to this cat fish farming.
In doing this business there are two major types you can do base on your capacity and strength, we have the growers and the hatching, the grower is not that stressful as that of hatching, the hatching is more stressful and it requires more strengths.
The one I am doing now is the grower, we buy them and we rear them, we call some of them fingerlings, post and juvenile if you can buy those ones you just put them inside the pond and start feeding them, changing their water until they grow. The stress of this one is minimal. But if you have the strength, you can go into the hatching, it is a bit stressful, but if you can do it you will enjoy it.
The hatching is from egg to life, it is like when a woman delivers baby, you know how to take care of the new born, for two to three days you may not know that there is something inside the water; it is through experience that you can know, until it becomes a week.
You have been in the business of this cat fish, how has it been like?
To be sincere, the one I said we do with grower, it depend on how you have the fund, if you have your money you will enjoy it very well.
What does it require to start this type of business?
It depend on how you want it to be, it does not require huge amount to start, you can start small and begin to expand the business as time goes by.
The hatching we are talking is the lowest, you can start with small money but it requires strength, if you have the ability to work. If you have N5000 you can start with that, after three months if God really wants to bless you, you can get up to N30,000 to N50,000 but the grower, you can start with 10,000 that sum of amount can only buy 1000 pieces, you will now need feeding, and that feeding can cost you, it depends on how big you want them to be, maybe you want them to be as big as having one weighing one kilo or two to weigh one kilo it depends on the way you feed them.
Since you started this business, have you gotten any assistance from the government?
I did not ask.
Are you aware that government is giving loans to small holder farmers like you?
I knew but it was through our cooperative society, we belong to Ifako Ijaiye farmers Association.
We have cooperative society in which if you want to get a loan you apply through the society, but you know when you apply for a loan, it is from hand to hand, there are certain percentage the cooperative will collect from you, if you don’t want to go through all those processes you better stay on your own.
In what areas do you think government can assist fish farmers like you?
If government really wants to assist, they can attend to individual without going through cooperative. But if you did not go through the cooperative nobody will attend to you. Like now if you go through the cooperative, you have certain year you will be a member, you will have certain amount in the cooperative, before they can listen to you, before they can accept you to come in.
Do you belong to any of the associations?
Yes. I am one of them in my area.
What is your assessment of the business environment for cat fish?
It is on the average, because it depends on how much you invest. At times if you want to harvest your fish, customers will ask us when they come to buy that when should they come back to buy and if you cannot give them a definite answer on when to check back, maybe a week or two, they may stop patronizing you, but if you are able to tell them the exact time to come they will continue to patronize you and you will make more money from the business.
What are some of the challenges so far?
Some of the challenges are moral support. For example, it is only my wife and I that do the business, because the children have to go on their ways. We cannot because of that stop them from going to school.
We thank God because we have never regretted what we have been doing.
What would you say has sustained this business?
It is God. God has been sustaining the business for us. Up till now I have not regretted venturing into this business, and I will still continue to do it.
Are you looking forward to getting assistance from the government to expand the business or you tend to run it base on your own capital?
I am not looking on the government, because to me I think our government is not dependable, they can promise you heaven and earth but at the end of the day, you will be surprise, they may fail you. That is why I did not have it in mind that until I see a help from government. I don’t have it in mind.
Do you think local fish farmer can meet the demand for local consumption?
What I think should happen before the government ban the importation of frozen fish is to assist the farmers first. When this is done, they can now ban the importation. But they are not doing that. It is a pity they did not make enough effort they would have let us prepare very well before they ban.
Though on the other hand, with the ban it will assist local fish farmers to brace up and work more so as to meet local consumption. Before you know it the labour of these farmers will not be in vain.