Editor’s note: Abiodun Eniola, an experienced catfish farmer, shares his expertise and insight into the habits and job ethics of millionaire catfish farmers — people who succeeded in Nigeria’s aquafarming field.
Three years ago, in an attempt to expand our fish farming business, we decided to launch out and look for new ponds to rent. In the process, we met an elderly man that happened to be the owner of a few abandoned ponds we were interested in, and he gave us some fatherly advice. He asked us what we wanted to use the ponds for, and when we told him it was for catfish farming, he advised us not to venture into it if we do not want to die young.
The reason behind his advice was because he has never made a profit in all his years as a catfish farmer. According to him, he experiences high blood pressure whenever he wants to sell his fish due to fear of experiencing another disappointment. Despite the fact that he owned the ponds and stood to gain if we rented them, he did not want us to go through the same negative experience he had.
This is the sad reality for most catfish farmers. I will never blame the man for his advice because “once your mother has been beaten by a mad man you will always run from mechanics” (this is a Yoruba proverb).
Based on our experience in this business, catfish farming is one of the most lucrative businesses around if only you understand the secrets involved. As far as I am concerned, I can never neglect this magnificent farming activity. Sit back and relax as we expose the secrets of millionaire catfish farmers.
They are excellent planners
The one thing I have learnt over time about millionaire catfish farmers is their ability to project and forecast into the future of their business. They always base their plan on economic realities of their environment. They will never venture into what their resources will not be able to take care of. Greed always makes never-do-well farmers to stock the number of fishes they will not be able to cater for, but millionaire farmers always cut their coat according to available resources.
Millionaire catfish farmers know how to grow their business steadily and will never depend on promises made by government or any close associate. In Nigeria of today, it costs nothing less than 400 naira (about $2) to raise a juvenile catfish to a table size of at least 1.4kg. A diligent farmer will take his time to calculate the quantity to stock based on the reality of his pocket and other resources he can lay his hands on in order not to fail at the end of the business season.
They are always up and doing
Another virtue I discovered about millionaire catfish farmers is the ability to work season in season out. They have developed their passion for the business and cannot do without visiting their farms or send trusted hands on daily basis. This set of people understands the dynamism of their business. At times they may have to go to farm early morning to feed their fishes. They have deeper understanding of season and can adjust their schedule to suit their business. They will never rest except they make the feed ready for their catfish.
They possess excellent bargaining power
At every market point where fish feed or inputs are sold, there is always a general price and bargained price. They know how to bypass the general price to get through their bargaining ability. In feed mills, an average feed miller may add as much as 20 naira on a unit of input, causing the total cost to skyrocket. In order to cut the cost, farmers are ready to buy in bulk for a particular farming season.
For instance, a unit of maize (i.e 1kg) costs as much as 70 naira at the feed mill as at the time of this write-up. The same can be bought for as low as 56 naira when you buy up to one ton. As such, a millionaire catfish farmer is able to save up to 14 naira on a unit of maize and 14,000 naira on a ton. For some of them with personal feed mill, getting cheaper ingredients from their supplier without compromising the quality is not difficult. They hardly buy on credit so as to get more reduced price.
They have excellent marketing skill
It is one thing to produce, and another major thing to market what is produced. Millionaire catfish farmers will not just stop at the point of production but also work to get better market for their produce. Marketing in catfish farming goes beyond selling of one’s produce (table-sized fish); it involves meeting competitive buyers and selling to buyers with better conditions which may include pricing, sizing and payment option.
They are investigative in nature
This set of people will not just sit down and believe everything the producer of inputs write on the label of their products. They go extra mile to investigate every declaration made by the producer. The farmers understand the fact that producers can make false declaration in order to sell fast in Nigeria. Millionaire farmers go extra mile to confirm the quality of input through analysis in laboratory and recommendations from other users when necessary.
They are always ready to pay much more for quality inputs
For no reason will these people compromise quality. The experience has taught them that catfish farming is all about “garbage in garbage out”. To these people, the effect of sub-quality input goes beyond losing money, but also affects other processes in the farm. In a country where quality control is nonexistent, these people are ready to pay more where quality is guaranteed. They don’t just buy a product because it is cheap but rather because it is of quality value.
They understand and adhere strictly to best practices in catfish farming
Another noticeable secret of millionaire catfish farmers is that they adhere strictly to best practices in catfish farming. They usually stock the best of seed (juveniles and fingerlings), stock moderately, and manage their water resources efficiently and effectively. Millionaire catfish farmers will not feed with sub-quality materials and will always wait patiently till their fishes grow to maturity without overfeeding or underfeeding them.
Many catfish farmers fail because of their little knowledge of the business. Learning from successful individual farmers could be the major way to a remarkable breakthrough in the business of catfish farming.
Abiodun Eniola is a veteran catfish farmer and the CEO of Keen International. He teaches people how to build a successful catfish farming business at ProfitableFishFarming.com. He is also available on Facebook (Abiodun Eniola).
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