Some stakeholders in the Seafood sector have called for the delisting of stock-fish from the foreign exchange (FOREX) restrictions to foster growth in the sector and enhance protein intake.
The stakeholders aired their views at a two-day seminar organised by the Norwegian Seafood Council on Wednesday in Lagos.
The convener of the seminar, Mr Trond Kostveit of the Norwegian Seafood Council, made the appeal because of the importance of the commodity in the Nigerian diet.
“In 2014, the government of Nigeria placed some 41 products as unqualified for forex and unfortunately stock-fish falls under the category.
“The placement of all kinds of fish under the forex embargo, I believe, is to boost local fish production which is quite understandable.
“But unfortunately, stock-fish is very important to the Nigerian diet, hence we appeal for its removal from the forex embargo.
“There are very many good reasons why we must take off stock-fish from the list, hence the reason for the seminar organised by the Norwegian Seafood Council,’’ Kostveit said.
Also speaking, the Norwegian Minister of Fisheries, Mr Odd-Emil Ingebrigtsen appealed to the Nigerian government to make forex accessible for the importation of stock-fish into the country.
“Today Nigeria is Norway’s largest market for stock-fish.
“As the Norwegian Minister of Fisheries, my target is to create more access for Norwegian Seafood.
“I would like to appreciate the Nigerian government for lowering the import duties for stock-fish head from 10 per cent to five per cent, thus bringing the cost of the commodity down,’’ Ingebrigtsen said.
He also urged the Nigeria government to reduce the import duty for stock-fish in general.
“We would also want you to remove stock-fish from the list of products of foreign exchange barriers.’’
Dr Ime Umoh, who represented the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development FMARD, called for more collaboration between governments of Norway and Nigeria to boost aquaculture production in Nigeria.
“The total fish production in Nigeria is about 1.123 million metric tons, which included imported fish.
“But these still do not satisfy the total national fish demand.
“The volume of stock-fish and stock-fish heads, imported from Norway into Nigeria is only about 8,000 metric tons and this represents about 0.4 per cent of the total volume of fish import.
“With this, it could be said that the total volume of foreign exchange consumed by this product is very minimal.
“The sales and consumption of stock-fish in Nigeria has created an important niche for itself.
“Stock-fish has given employment to many Nigerians and many livelihoods depend on it within and across the country,’’ the minister said.
He said that 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 populace’’.
According to him, while initiating policies and regulations, there is a need to be aware of the reciprocity of trade among nations.
“The fact is that we can also involve our trading partners, like Norway, to assist us with backward integration process into commercial aquaculture,’’ he said.
Representing the Governors of Lagos and Rivers States, the deputy governor of Rivers, Dr Ipalibo Harry-Banigo, commended the Norwegian Seafood Council for organising the seminar to boost the seafood value-chain in Nigeria.
Harry-Banigo commended the Council for conducting various seminars in Nigeria with a view to creating awareness on seafood safety.
“Our government has gone into several partnerships to boost agriculture production, which includes fish farming.
“Seafood can be an important solution in Nigeria in terms of rebuilding communities and job creation.
“There are potentials in the seafood industry to jumpstart the battered economies in the post-COVID-19 era,’’ the deputy governor said.