A study by Mwapata Policy Institute has found that the country’s small-scale fish farming is more profitable.
Titled ‘Challenges and Opportunities for Small-Scale Aquaculture Development in Malawi’, the study was done by Mwapata’s researchers Maggie Munthali, Lemekezani Chilora, Zephania Nyirenda, Dinah Salonga, Ayala Wineman, and Milu Muyanga.
It found that on average, fish farms made a profit of K116 258, but when the profit is scaled to the size of a “typical” pond of 299.5 square metres the profit was K97 041.
This was found to be equal to K3.2 million per hectare or approximately $3 888 per hectare.
A detailed analysis of production costs reveals that feed, both commercial and home-made, accounted for a large share of costs.
Specifically, feed accounted for 54.9 percent of the cost of production (on average), while hired labour accounted for 12 percent, fingerlings accounted for 11 percent, fertilisers accounted for 7.2 percent, and other costs were more marginal.
Reads the report in part: “Overall, this study demonstrates that small-scale fish farming has potential to improve farmers livelihoods and welfare through income and dietary diversification.
“On average, fish farming was estimated to contribute 21 percent towards the household income of the individually owned fish farms, and most respondents 59.4 percent perceived fish farming to play an ‘extremely important’ role in farmers’ livelihoods”.
The study highlights that the cost of fish feed, fertiliser, fingerlings, and hired labour are important factors to consider when venturing into fish farming.
The researchers found 81.5 percent of fish farms realised positive profits, with a mean of K116 258 and a median of K25 500.
The variation in the gross margin was attributed to factors such as differences in fish species cultivated, stocking rates, types and rates of inputs used, production of fish or fingerlings, pond sizes or farm sizes, and various challenges faced by fish farmers.
Of challenges facing fish farming, include shortage of land for pond excavation; lack of fishing equipment; poor environmental conditions for fish production; lack of access to well-structured markets; theft and predators; fish diseases; lack of access to credit and low incomes.
The sector is also affected by high labour, lack of relevant extension services, lack of input markets, lack of access to good quality feed; and poor quality of fingerlings.
“These challenges also point to important opportunities for government and the private sector to invest in aquaculture,” reads the report.
In an interview on Tuesday, Department of Fisheries director Friday Njaya, while agreeing with the findings from the Mwapata study, said the success of fish farming is dependent on the quality of fingerlings.
He said it was pleasing to note that both the government and the private sector are undertaking fingerling genetic improvement initiatives to ensure high quality production and productivity of fish.
Njaya said: “Malawi is now making headway in aquaculture. I am advising small-scale farmers to form cooperatives to largely benefit from feed and fingerling distribution.
“We expect to have more floating fish feed companies going forward as the private sector keep investing in this area.”
Agriculture policy expert Tamani Nkhono Mvula said Malawi has a huge potential in as far as fisheries is concerned but the country’s monitoring systems do not capture the accurate figures.
He said: “Over the past five years, there has been an increase in in-cage fish farming which has increased production of some fish and revenues from various types of fish.”
Meanwhile, Malawi’s annual fish production increased to 173 480 metric tonnes in 2021, raking in K187.3 billion from sales, an increase of 1.5 percent from the previous year.
In 2020, the country produced 170 844 MT of fish, generating K183.3 billion, according to the 2022 Malawi Government Annual Economic Report.
Looking ahead, the government is projecting that fish production will increase from the current 173 480 metric tonnes (MT) to 178 684 MT and 182 258 MT in 2022 and 2023, translating to increased projected accrued monetary value of K194.8 billion, and K200.5 billion respectively.