Hunger Ahead As FG Bans Importation Of Fish… Prices Soaring Already

Hunger Ahead As FG Bans Importation Of Fish… Prices Soaring Already


Few weeks after the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Akinwunmi Adesina, was honoured by Forbes magazine, more Nigerians have taken a swipe at his decision to place a ban on the importation of fish into the country. They are of the opinion that the directive by the Federal Government through the minister is another ploy to deny the poor masses their only cheap source of protein.

Investigation had it that Nigerians cutting across all strata of the society remain unhappy over the imminent price hike of fish when the ban eventually takes full effect by end of December 2013.

It will be recalled that Adesina made the pronouncement a few weeks ago during the launch of the Special Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme, which is intended to boost local aquaculture production through the Aquaculture Value Chain initiative.

To ensure strict adherence to the directive, the Federal Government, in a letter dated October 29, 2013, to fish importers directed them to ensure that all Bills of Lading carried dates not later than October 2013 and the fish cargoes (consignments) arrived the Nigerian waters not later than December 31, 2013.

Findings across various markets in Lagos that forms the bulk of the market in the country revealed that the price of the item has truly escalated beyond what poor Nigerians can afford. As at last week, a carton of Titus now sells for N13, 500, up from N10, 500 while Kote now goes for N10, 200 from N7,500.

To justify the GES/AVC initiatives, the minister claimed the aquaculture value chain would produce 400,000 tonnes of fish, generate extra 250,000 of table fish and 100,000 tonnes of value added fish.

According to the FAO’s, the state of world fisheries and aquaculture report 2012, Nigeria produced 200535 tonnes of aquaculture fish, representing 15.57 per cent of global production in 2010, and had an annual consump-tion requirement of 1.2 million metric tonnes based on a population figure of 100 million and per capita consumption of 12 kg per annum regarded as adequate for a normal healthy growth.

These figures reveal that even if the ambitious objectives put forward by the minister are indeed achieved, there will still be a significant shortfall in fish availability for consumption, if importation were banned outright as is currently the case.

Reacting, a fish expert and lecturer at the Lagos State University, Dr. Tosin Olarinmoye, said that government should not be in a hurry to ban fish imports into the country since it has not made provision for any alternative source of cheap protein for the poor. “It doesn’t make sense to ban fish when you are not producing enough locally.

In Nigeria, fish is the cheapest form of protein people use to

supplement their protein requirements in food. Locally, we are not producing enough for the following reasons that our waters have been devastated by oil pollution. Fish farmers are supposed to use a particular kind of net that should pick the specific type of fish they are looking for.

But because they are not regulated, they catch every kind of fish, both mature and immature, even the ones they are supposed to thrown back into the water, they sell them to the market women. “So, as a result of over fishing when our local fishermen go on water they can’t even see fish of big and bigger size to catch.”

He pointed out that instead of total ban government should work with the local fish suppliers through the ministry of agriculture’s extension service and designate some areas not tobe fished for some time so that fishes in that area would produce. He added that even after that period, they should continue to monitor the conservation areas to ensure strict compliance over a particular time.

For instance, the Arugungu fishing festival.

Because fishing is restricted in that water every year, they must catch fishes of big sizes. This is because they have ensured that in the intervening year before the festival, nobody fishes in that river. Can’t that be done? Now we are not producing enough and we want to ban fish that people buy for N150 to N250 per one to eat. I think it is a bad policy and Nigerians will kick against it,” he added.

Also speaking on the issue,a nutritionist, Dr. Amarachi Okonkwo, said though the policy in itself had merit, the shotgun approach being applied by the government in this case, as in many other such developmental agenda and policies, was inappropriate.

He said that since local production was inadequate due to a number of reasons, which the government itself acknowledged at the inauguration of its GES project, a situation which and will persist for a long time to come, government should have applied a phased approach to the implementation of this policy, as was attempted through the largely failed FADAMA project in the case of rice.

He said, “Phased increment agenda to maximize local production, artisanal and aquacultural, while reducing imports gradually would be a more workable option in the midium to long term.

This is to be done in tandem with fish stock enumerations, designation of protected fishing areas, and species, strict monitoring and enforcement of fishing quotas by trawlers in local waters to reduce, and possibly eradicate the menace of overfishing, a factor militating against artisanal fisher folk and their livelihoods.”

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