By 2050 the world’s population will reach over 9 billion. Considering the majority of African countries are LDCs there will need to be massive amounts of expansion, intensification and investment to enable the necessary rise in food production. Global aquaculture production has grown over the past decade with production now at 55 million MT in 2009 - current African production is less than 1% of the world’s total. The African continent acknowledges the importance and potential of aquaculture in terms of poverty alleviation, food security and as a means of reducing the current volumes of imported fish supplying domestic appetite as huge numbers of sub- Saharan Africans depend on fish as a dietary protein source.
Feeding aquatic organisms is significantly different from feeding terrestrial livestock, not only due to the nature the stock but also the production environment. The estimated global production of commercial aquafeeds in 2008 was 29.3 million MT, some 4% of the total global animal feed production of over 708 million MT in 2009. The choice of feeding method in aquaculture is based upon a variety of factors and a variety of objectives. It is generally accepted that feed costs account for the highest single production cost in aquaculture grow-out production systems. Typically, in intensive production systems, feed accounts for between 60-80% of operational costs, in semi-intensive systems, feed and fertiliser use represents between 30-60% of the total cost of production.
Commercial aquafeeds utilise a mixture of feedstuffs that are formulated to produce a balanced diet. The choice of ingredients depends on nutrient requirements, cost, availability and processing characteristics. The global aquafeed industry is reliant on common ingredients for which it competes with terrestrial livestock production as well as food for human consumption. Many of the key ingredients used in aquafeeds are internationally traded commodities and as such subject to global market volatility. R&D is ongoing to reduce overall costs of aquafeeds by reducing volumes of expensive often imported raw ingredients and the utilisation of locally sourced raw ingredients which do not compete with and jeopardise SSAs human food demands and food security.
Aqua-farmers use ‘on-farm’ produced feeds – which is not without its pitfalls and/or commercial aquafeeds. At a certain level of aqua-production it becomes more economical to purchase commercial feeds. Extrusion technology is favoured by today’s aquafeed industry as it is capable of producing low density floating feeds and farmers find its higher quality results in lower FCRs and ultimately healthier profit margins. Importation of aquafeeds into SSA is an expensive means of feeding the growing industry but establishing commercial feed mills requires capital and a complex process of analysis, budgeting, planning and project management. Add to this the fact that the feed industry value chain comprises of inbound, in-house and outbound logistics which are all influenced by externalities, such as distribution, storage facilities, energy supplies and the quality control of raw ingredients - unfortunately all these areas and issues are currently found wanting in SSA.
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