Prospects for Malawi’s aquaculture sector remains gloomy for small-holder farmers as they continue facing challenges.
Small-holder farmers often face myriad challenges, with low feed values being among the most prominent, with farmers often making homemade feeds that experts say are non-viable and lead to lower yields.
This is further elaborated in a recent review published by the WorldFish organisation that analyses the business models of aqua feed and feed value chains in Malawi and Zambia.
“At present, there is a lack of understanding among farmers in Malawi regarding the economic returns of using imported commercial feed,” the review says.
WorldFish Research Associate Meriam Phiri said commercial feed for Malawi is still being imported from Zambia, meaning that it tends to be expensive in the country as a result of VAT, and transport costs.
She explained that using commercial feed from earlier stages would be advantageous to farmers.
“Most of the fish that is being used as seed for these farmers is recycled seed that is stunted, so even if they can buy the commercial feed the fish don’t grow to the size that could lead to profits,
“The likes of Maldeco produce quality Chambo because they use quality seed first and then they use commercial feed from Zambia” Phiri said.
She added that Malawi stands to benefit from this as smallholder farmers will be able to get high returns leading to high production for the country as well.
National Aquaculture Centre Senior Officer Hastings Zidana outlined the impact that high quality feed would lead to.
“At the moment most of the farmers are producing 800 kgs/hectares per year, but if they will be able to get this high quality feed they will be able to produce 1.2 to 1.5 tons/ hectare, and those doing it commercially will be able to get 6 tonnes/hectare per year,” Zidana said.