…as govt approves fresh licences
There is suspicion that the proposed ban on fish importation would not work out as no fewer than 39 companies have been licensed to import 2.48 million metric tonnes of fish valued at N915 billion ($2.23 billion) in 2021.
The country currently has capacity to produce only 1.123 million tonnes yearly. This is coming as illegal foreign vessels have infiltrated the country’s coastal waters, doing transshipment from small fishing boats to larger refrigerated carriers.
Global price of fish as at February 2021 was $900 per metric tonne. It was gathered that the illegal operators were fond of switching off their Automatic Identification System (AIS) tracking signal to avoid arrest by the Navy.
According to Greenpeace, European owners took advantage of the poor oversight in the region to control transshipping through Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
It noted that across West Africa, 37 species are now classed as ‘threatened with extinction.’ Worried by the shortage, 39 companies were recently asked to import fish into the country this year ahead of the proposed ban in 2022.
According to a Director in the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Ime Umoh, 151 applications were turned down because they could not meet the requirement for licenses to import fish.
He added that some disqualified applicants also had issues with their tax clearance and other documentation. The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, had said that the total fish production in Nigeria was estimated at 1.123 million metric tonnes, while the annual consumption has reached 3.6 million metric tonnes.
He complained that the total fish production, including imports in Nigeria, couldn’t satisfy the total fish demand.
Umoh said: “Despite the fact that the government needs to reduce the nation’s import bills, we need to take cognisance of the importance of cheap and affordable protein and other nutrients for the Nigerian population that could be derived from products supplied by other friendly trading partners to support our local production to fill the gap of our domestic demand and supply.”
This week, data by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA)’s shipping position revealed that some of the companies had imported 12,185 tonnes of fish, which would be discharged at Rivers and Lagos ports. Finding revealed that Green Ocean and Green Klipper have arrived at ENL terminal at Lagos Port with 4,000 tonnes and 4,200 tonnes respectively.
Also, Frio Ionian is currently offloading 3,985.280 tonnes of fish at Rivers port in Port Harcourt.
Between January and February, 11 vessels discharged 43,632.2 tonnes of fish at Lagos Port’s terminal C and D with Green Cooler leading with 3,200 tonnes; Green Chile, 5,500 tonnes; Coppename, 3,293.74 tonnes; Coppename, 3,293 tonnes; Frio Las Palmas, 5,745.041 tonnes and Green Seije, 4,200 tonnes.
Others are Sierra Lara, 3,850 tonnes; Alma, 3,200.512 tonnes; Green Ocean, 4,000 tonnes; Lagoon Phoenix, 3,15 0tonnes and Green Dodo, 4,200 tonnes. It would be recalled that the Treasurer, National Fish Association of Nigeria (NFAN), Chibunna fishUbawuike, had said that the decision of government to ban fish importation would save the country over $1 billion annually.
Ubawuike said in Abuja that the association was prepared to work with the Federal Government to actualise the ban, saying that it would create opportunities for local fish farmers and other stakeholders in the value chain to thrive. He added: “If we are self sufficient in fish production that money will be saved and Nigeria will not have to expend it any longer, instead it will be ploughed into other critical areas of the economy.
“Fishery has huge prospect in Nigeria. Nigeria is the largest country in Africa in terms of population and the largest exporter of ornamental fish.” Ubawuike noted that the current government’s determination to reposition the fisheries and aquaculture sub-sector was a right step in the right direction, noting that NFAN was prepared to ensure the end to fish importation.
The treasurer explained that he had discovered several species of fish that could survive in Nigeria’s water bodies and withstand the country’s weather. He stressed that the country was blessed with water bodies and an array of fish species, saying that all the farmers need was to intensify research on the economic-driven species in the country.
According to him, NFAN was working on establishing fish hardware, which would include cold rooms, jetties and other facilities to ensure availability of healthy fish all year round in the country.