Nigeria imports about 2.4 million metric tonnes of frozen fish annually and this is taking a toll on the country’s foreign exchange reserves, the Federal Government lamented on Monday.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the Internal Coordination Meeting of Implementation of Fisheries Governance Project Phase Two in Abuja, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Mahmood, said Nigeria’s annual fish demand was 3.6 million metric tonnes, but only 1.2MMT was produced domestically.
Mahmood, who was represented by the Director, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ime Umoh, said, “Nigeria is a very large country and we need about 3.6MMT per annum but we are able to produce only 1.2MMT through the artisanal, industrial and aquaculture.
“The deficit is being supplemented by frozen fish importation, which is being used to bridge the gap. It is not actually that we are going to have 2.5 million metric tonnes brought into the country, but we have a situation that we supplement with frozen fish imports.”
Asked to quantify the cost of importing over two million metric tonnes of fish into Nigeria, he replied, “I will not be able to quantify the cost, but I know that it is a toll on our foreign exchange.
“However, it is being regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria because only the CBN governor issues Form-M to anybody who wants to bring frozen fish into the country. So that monetary toll in terms of foreign exchange used in importing frozen fish is to be given by the CBN.”
On whether it was healthy to consume these frozen fish, the minister responded in the affirmative.
“Before it is brought into the country we have have to certify where it is coming from, what is the health status, how is it being stored and others,” he said.
Mahmood added, “We inspect the cold rooms and we have inspectors in Lagos, Abuja and in other locations who inspect the fish to ensure that it is brought in very good condition.”
He further stated that the Federal Government was supporting the local production of fish in various ways.
He said, “We train those in the artisanal sector, provide them with inputs and sometimes we boost our rivers with fingerlings. In terms of aquaculture, we establish fish farm estates for youths and women. We also provide them with feeds.