dry and smoke fish business

Why Start Dry and Smoke Catfish Business


The question is why start a dry and smoke fish business. the answer is simple the smoked fish industry in Nigeria and most African countries is very lucrative. There are many individual players in the business. The major attraction is basic equipment and many fish farmers.

The fish is popular in stalls, supermarkets, grocery store and open market. The income making potential is huge and the fish highly sort throughout the country. The business template is simple and straightforward purchase the fish, smoke them and sell.

Smoked Fish

Early man discovered the amazing taste of smoked fish. Over the years the methodology of smoking remains the same with very slight variations. Smoked fish are fish introduced to heat or cured.

The fish once processed has a long shelf life, easily extended through refrigeration. The fish presents an enticing flavor ideal for stews and soups. The natural oil of the fish infused by the heat and smoke presents a delicious taste.

The fish is also added to local delicacies like egusi, vegetable and other dishes. Its unique taste and easy preservation makes it highly priced. The fish without refrigeration can last several weeks. The final product attracts premium price in the open market.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The major advantage is the possibility of high profit. Startup capital depends on the amount of fish you want to process and the main investment is a one time purchase of a smoker.

Sourcing the fish is easy due to a proliferation of small catfish farms virtually everywhere. The business is practicable from home and you only have to buy the fish. Knowledge of fish farming is not relevant however understanding basic details important. Finally the fish is in high demand because of its sumptuous taste and long shelf life.

  • high profit
  • moderate startup capital
  • fish availability
  • practicable from home
  • requires basic knowledge
  • high demand
  • long shelf life


You can start a small operation with N300, 000 to N500, 000. The majority of the investment is to purchase the drying equipment. Other cost considerations are working capital, transportation.

You need transportation to the farmer and your operational base. To raise funds you can approach a micro finance bank for long term low interest loans. To get the loan you need at least 1/3 of the requested sum. Other conditions include opening an account with the bank, collateral and guarantors.

Other ways to fund the project are target savings, borrow from friends and family. You could also consider partnership arrangement.

  • approach a micro finance bank
  • target savings
  • borrow from friends and family
  • partnership arrangement


To start the business you need operational premises. You could also start the business from home. Equipment you need is a smoker or dryer. There are many locally fabricated dryers and imported products.

If you have a good welder he could fabricate one using basic tools. Other equipment is plastic bowls, knife and sealing machine for packaging export ready products. Exporters might require a NAFDAC number or permit.

Equipment for Catfish Smoking

  • smoker oven
  • knives
  • bowls
  • salt
  • spices
  • branding packages
  • nylon sealer
  • labels

Profit Potential

Current price of 1kg medium sized fresh catfish is N500 to N550. Three fish weighing 330kg would make 1 kg of fish. Total cost of processing each fish is about N100. In the open market each smoked fish is sold from N400 to N600.

If the sales cost is N500 per fish then the total amount for 1kg is N1500. Deduct the cost of smoking the fish and cost per kg bought from fish farmers you get 100(3) + 500=800. That equates to 1500-800 =N700.

Let us assume the fish smoker buys 60 kg at N500 per kg =N30, 000. The trader makes about N12, 000 based on the above analogy. The amount of profit depends on the cost price per kg you buy the fish and price you sell. Other things that affect pricing are the efficiency of the smoking equipment.

Hot Smoking Method

Once you have the fish place in a container and add salt. Then cover the container with a strong lid and place a heavy object to prevent escape. The next step is to clean the fish in fresh water.

Then soak the fish in brine (a combination of salt and water). To make the brine add 100g salt to 1 liter of water. The brimming process removes excess blood, slime adds saltiness to fish. This process is instrumental to the flavor and longer shelf life.

After brining the person could decide to add spicing. However this process is optional. The final stage is the smoking and drying process. The smoker is heated and the fish placed in the chamber.

There are different types of smokers that use charcoal, gas or electric ovens. The fire and heat should have a low even consistency to thoroughly dry the fish. The duration depends on the size of the fish and heating mechanism.

Once the fish is properly dried it proceeds to the weighing station. The fish could be weighed into 250 kg, 500kg or 1kg packs. The fish are then packaged in transparent polythene bags, labeled and sealed.

Ways to Sell Smoked Fish

There are two ways to sell your product. You can sell directly to customers or become a wholesaler. The wholesaler sells to market women who in turn sell to customers. Processing and selling directly to end users is very profitable. However the wholesale template assures quicker turnover.

Start a dried and smoked catfish export business

Export Opportunities

There are good export opportunities for smoked fish. However they need proper processing and should conform to international smoking and packaging standards. It should get NAFDAC approval and pass packaging standardization.

To export smoked fish you need to register the business as a limited liability company. You need an ISO drying machine and packaging. The fish should be devoid of contaminants or harmful agents. The packaging should have appropriate labeling with production date and address of producer.

Market the Smoked Fish

Make sure you only use fresh fish for smoking. The average size of fish referred to as mélange is usually 300g to 550g. To achieve great tasting fish regulate the amount of smoke in the oven. Sell your products to market women, shopping malls and supermarket. You may also consider export markets for your products.

Dried and smoked fish export

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