Zimbabwe has the potential to become one of the region's biggest fish producers with a vibrant aquaculture in the SADC region, analysts have said.
Despite being landlocked, Zimbabwe holds approximately 60 percent of the dammed water in the Sadc region and has the largest fresh water fish farm in the whole of Africa. The sector has also generated interest among the emerging small scale entrepreneurs who are seeing growth opportunities.
Additionally, the country has a suitable climate to drive a vibrant aquaculture that contributes significantly to GDP.
Already, the sector is showing signs of improvement since the establishment of the Zimbabwe Fish Producers Association in 2016.
Annual production is estimated at 9 000 metric tonnes making Zimbabwe the seventh largest tilapia producer in Africa.
But brokerage firm IH Securities contends, right policies remain key in achieving this, although the sector holds much potential in the economic turnaround drive.
"Aquaculture can be developed into a major industry in Zimbabwe with right policies and strategies," said IH in their Zimbabwe Agriculture Sector Report 2019.
"Fish farming continues to grow on the strength of smallholder interest in pond-based fish farming and increasing interest from various Government ministries although coordination of policy remains a challenge given the multiplicity of regulatory agencies involved in the fish industry," said IH.
In Zimbabwe, it is estimated that local consumption of fish is 2kg per capita per year or 28 000 tonnes. The remaining 21 000 tonnes is covered by imports mainly from neighbouring Mozambique creating more scope for Zimbabweans to tap into the sector.
Globally, fish farming is one of the fastest growing agricultural industry, which plays a key role in feeding an increasing world population, as fish can be produced more efficiently and cost effectively than most meat proteins with the highest food conversion ratios as they produce more protein per kilogram of feed.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has indicated fish serves an estimated 3 billion people with food while its farming is identified as an innovative way to boost global food security, as well as enhance household income of securities.
A study by the Conservation International and World Fish Centre which assessed fish farming in 18 different countries also revealed the sector is key to feeding growing urban populations.
Government has also recognised aquaculture as a valuable form of livestock production with potential to contribute substantially to sustainable livelihoods, food security, and economic development through value addition and export of processed fish product.
FAO also notes Zimbabwe has more than 12 000 small to medium-sized inland dams and agricultural irrigation with a combined potential to produce 160 000 tonnes of farmed fish while the estimated production of capture fish and farmed fish are 12 500 tonnes and 10 500 tonnes respectively.
However, 2018 recorded a decline in fish exports, recording $6,24 million from $7,85 million in the prior year.
Fish imports of the product totalled $12,83 million last year from $16,7 million in 2017.