JUST like the livestock and poultry raisers, the big problem of the bangus growers these days is the high cost of feeds. This is particularly true for the bangus growers in the mariculture park in Panabo City, Davao del Norte.
Bangus stocks in the mariculture park have to be fed with commercial feed because they are confined in cages where there are no natural feeds. The bangus fingerlings grow fast in the marine cages, no question about that. But there are serious problems, especially for the fish farmers who have to borrow money for paying for the cages, the feeds, nets and of course the fingerlings.
Dr. Francisco de la Pena, who used to have several cages has stocked only two cages in the current season because it has been a losing proposition to continue with the many cages. The trouble, he said, is that the price of bangus has not increased while the cost of commercial feed has skyrocketed.
He explained that in 2008, the 25-kilo bag of feeds used to cost only about P550. Today, the same volume is selling at P700 to P800. While the price of angus has not increased at all, the cost of commercial feeds has gone up tremendously.
When he started in 2008, bangus raising was very profitable. From six cages that he stocked with 15,000 fingerlings per cage, he was able to realize a net profit of P1.4 million. The profit was made in a culture period of four months.
It takes a lot of capital to make bangus farming in cages. From the start to finish, one has to spend about P500,000 per cage, including the cost of the cage, fingerlings at P6.50 per five-inch fingerling. Feeds constitute 60 to 70 percent of the cost of production. So when the cost of feed increases, the cost of production also increases significantly.
One big problem of the bangus raisers in Panabo is postharvest handling. There is lack of refrigeration facilities. There is no ice plant in the area. One other observation of Dr. de la Pena is that the cage module of 10 x 10 meters by 4 meters deep is too big for some of the farmers. Why? Because the harvest is often too much for the owner to handle. If there are not enough buyers, he could be forced to sell at a low price.
He suggests that some of the cages should measure only 5 meters x 5 meters and 4 meters deep. That way, there will be less harvest to handle and to market at a given time.
Dr. de la Pena has been experimenting on his own formulation of organic feeds for his bangus. He is now very positive that with his own feed formulation, he could reduce the cost of feeds by by 20 percent. And that is why he will be increasing the number of fish cages that he will stock with fingerlings soon.
His organic fish feed consists of rice bran, corn bran, copra meal, fish amino acid, fermented plant juices and growth hormones, and OHN or oriental herbal nutrients. The ingredients are mixed thoroughly and then pelletized with the use of a binder which could be corn starch or 3rd class all-purpose wheat flour.