Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina has said the N125.38 billion spent by Nigeria to import fish annually is totally unacceptable.
The Minister who spoke in Abuja at the 2nd Stakeholders Interactive Session on: “Re-positioning the Fisheries Sector,” blamed importers for not paying government the amount due for licences, adding that the federal government has started a fish production support program for fishermen in fishing communities.
He noted that the ministry will not allow such illegality and ‘fishy businesses’ in the sector to continue.
The minister explained that government will continue to close down cold rooms of importers that bring in fish illegally while such operators will be subjected to stiffer penalties.
He said: “Nigeria spends an estimated N125.38 billion importing fish every year. This is totally unacceptable. Fish does not grow on sand, it grows in water, and Nigeria has abundant water resources and marine ecosystems to produce high quality fish. This is why, for the first time ever, Federal Government has started a fish production support program for fishermen and fishing communities.
“The issue of licensing for fish imports is bedevilled with corruption, as importers corrupt public officials to give licenses away above their available cold room warehouse capacities. The figures given by the Nigerian Customs for fish imports to Nigeria is several times above the declared volumes by fish importers. Another fishy business. For example, btw 2010-2012, fish importers declared that they imported 1.78 million MT of fish or annual import of 593,000 MT. The records in the Federal Department of Fisheries show 1.9 million MT of fish imports in the period or annual import of 635,000 MT. However, the Nigerian Customs figures shows that actual total fish import by the importers during the period was 16.8 million MT or annual import of 5.9 million MT.
“It is very clear: fish importers are cheating and are not paying the amounts due to government for licenses. Even more worrisome is that there is no cold storage capacity in the country to keep 5.9 million MT of fish. So what is being imported and declared as fish? Allegations are rife of dubiousness among some importers who declare fish for imports, but are actually importing other things, including cars. Fishy business.
“The Ministry will not allow such illegality to continue, and therefore we have sealed off a few cold rooms. We will continue to close down cold rooms that bring in fish illegally and their operators will be subjected to stiff penalties. Repeat offenders will have their import licenses totally revoked.
The new policy on import quota is directed at sanitizing a terribly corrupt fish import licensing and import quota system. It will prevent the current practice where some large corporate importers simply stockpile fish and distort the market at will, driving small Nigerian fish retailers out of business. Stock piling also leads to keeping fish way beyond acceptable sell-by dates, leading to sale of rancid fish to consumers. Rancidity is a major cause of cancers, especially liver and kidney cancers.”
Dr. Adesina said that the fisheries sector contributes 4% of the gross domestic product (GDP) also informed all present at the forum that the ministry’s target is to be self-sufficient by increasing the production of fish fingerlings by 1.25 billion annually.
“The fisheries sector is important, as it contributes 4% of the GDP. The total demand for fish in the country is 2.7 million MT and we are producing locally about 800,000 MT. The deficit of 1.9 million MT is met by imports. Our goal is to be self-sufficient in fish production.
We will achieve this by promoting greater investments in aquaculture, improving artisanal, inland and marine fisheries. Our four-year target is to increase the production of fish fingerlings by 1.25 billion per year, the production of fish feed by 400,000 metric tons per year; and increase table size fish production by an additional 250,000 metric tons per year.
“In addition, we will produce 100,000 metric tons of value added fish and fisheries products annually. We expect that within four years, we will add an additional 1 million MT of fish to our domestic production and reach 67% self-sufficiency.”
From all indications, the fisheries sub- sector is in for an astronomic growth if the policies are implemented as propounded.
From our correspondent