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Fears for $15m fish project as major partner pulls out

KENYA - A $15 million commercial fish fish farming project hangs in the balance now that one of its key partners, fish multiplication specialist Genomar, has pulled out.

Absence of a local, cost-effective source of fish feed accelerated the action, said project manager Deogratius Kasozi.

“The feed itself is cheap but the cost of freight and the short shelf life of only three months limited our options. Bringing it in by air was too expensive, while the long procurement cycle make imports by sea equally unviable as the stock expires before it even gets to the ponds,” said Mr Kasozi.

The Sungenor project — a joint venture between Genomar and its Ugandan partners Sunco and Ngege Ltd — was launched in 2005 to develop an integrated aquaculture operation with a fish hatchery and commercial fish farming aiming at yields of as much as 30,000 tonnes of tilapia annually by 2009.

It was expected that commercial rearing of fast growing strains of tilapia would take pressure off Lake Victoria, which has recently suffered declining yields in the face of overfishing and a degraded habitat.

Mr Kasozi says that Sungenor was trying to work with USAid to mobilise the industry to a point where it can support local manufacturing of fish feed.

Although there are many people currently growing fish in ponds, they have not been very successful because they are using poultry-based feeds, which impacts on yields. The more successful ones are engaged in growing lung fish, which is carnivorous and easier to breed.

“Tilapia feeds from the top, which requires floating feed, as opposed to poultry feed, which sinks and eventually pollutes the ponds,” Mr Kasozi explained.

Initial estimates have put the cost of a fish feed plant at $2 million, an investment Mr Kasozi says would be justifiable only if it allowed the plant to achieve optimum output.

“It is this apparent stalemate that forced Genomar to suspend its involvement; but USAid is trying to mobilise donors to contribute towards establishing local manufacture of fish feed,” he added.

Source: Nation Media