Value-added products cut losses for Tana River fish farmers

Fish farmers at a pond in Chakamba Village, Tana River County. Changes in climatic conditions have undermined the catches in River Tana, with more than six tributaries having dried up.

Photo credit: Stephen Odour I Nation Media Group

For close to a year now, aquaculture in Tana River County has been unsustainable due to a poor market.

The market value for raw fish has been discouraging, making it difficult for farmers to manage production on their farms due to high prices of feeds and other services.

Fish farmer John Manasseh said consumers prefer buying fish in sizes rather than weight.

“A fish may be smaller in size but has good weight. But consumers want big fish and will turn down anything that sells highly but is small in size,” he says.

This has resulted in many fish farmers giving up fish production, as they cannot meet the costs of managing the ponds individually.

Unlike Mr Zablon Komora, who has been banking on selling fingerlings, other farmers have found it difficult to market their fish and so they sell it at low prices.

“That forces a farmer to reduce feeding the fish as advised and that affects production in the pond as well as the death of fish through sicknesses and eventually the farmer gives up,” says Mr Komora.

However, the farmers’ fortunes are set to change following a market activation programme geared toward value-added fish products.

The German Corporation, in partnership with Farm Africa under the Go Blue Project, is training farmers on alternative methods of marketing fish through the production of different products.

Ms Numias Kiti, a trainer with Farm Africa, noted that with such experience, fish farmers in the county can explore the food market with different fish products.

She said farmers have been trained to produce fish fillets, fish kebabs, fish burgers, samosa and sausages.

“These are products that can stay for a week on the shelf. We train them on how to prepare them using natural ingredients that may be acceptable in supermarkets and the big hotels across the country,” she said.

Other products farmers will be trained to make include fish soup powder, ready-to-serve fish curry, and fish cutlet.
Go Blue Project technical adviser Arnoud Meijberg said aquaculture opens up other options for marketing fish for better gains.

He noted that with skills in value-addition, fish farmers can produce fish outside the season, providing a stable supply in the market chain.

“The essence of farming fish is to make money and when the market is not responding well to the raw product, you change tack to stay in business,” he said.

More than 130 fish farmers in the county have been trained on value-addition techniques.