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Addressing challenges of fish feed supply

11 October 2014

The latest Globefish report on fishmeal and fish oil highlights that a growing demand from the sectors using animal feed (aquaculture/agriculture) maintained pressure on fishmeal and fish oil prices. Declines in global production, due to fishing restrictions and bad weather, pushed up prices in 2013 to record high levels. To reduce their dependency on wild fish catches, fishmeal feed producers are increasingly substituting fish with plant-based material, particularly soya meal. However, the sustainability of soya production (because of genetically modified organisms /GMOs and deforestation issues) and competition from human consumption raise a number of issues.

Another avenue is also explored in African aquaculture. A recent study has examined the case of farmed tilapia production in Africa, where the demand is high but the local production insufficient. The study highlights that intensive tilapia farming is expanding in sub-Saharan Africa, in Ghana in particular, where large-scale industrial tilapia farms are developing to meet increasing local demand. In countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia and Uganda, “commercial tilapia production is now beginning to impact onto local and regional markets.”

Although small-scale farmers continue to use home-made feed from various waste and by-products, these intensive tilapia farms rely on imported commercial feed, mostly based on fishmeal. Given the rising prices of fishmeal, there is a growing demand for alternative local quality feed. Sustainable local insect production is a possibility in the region, considering the favourable environmental conditions, with fly larvae having been identified as a suitable and valuable source of protein for livestock production systems, including fish. Fly larvae (or maggot) production can be achieved at low cost from various sources of organic waste (manure, decaying fruit or vegetables, abattoir wastes, etc.) and can be incorporated into fish feed as a principal source of animal protein for tilapia diet. Experiments will be implemented in 2014 and 2015 in Ghana.

Editorial comment

In African countries that have high fish imports, such as Ghana and Nigeria, aquaculture could potentially play a greater role in supplying the local markets. To date, imported fish feed based on fishmeal has been one of the major limiting factors for the development of aquaculture (including for the farming of non-carnivorous species such as tilapia, because the intrinsic qualities of fishmeal ensure a balanced diet for the fish, enabling fast growth). Developing sustainable alternative sources of proteins for fish feed is a key issue to address for furthering the development of aquaculture.


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