Fish farmers in Nigeria have raised the alarm that frozen fish importers and officials in the Department of Fishery, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, are sabotaging efforts to rev up local fish production.The Catfish and Allied Fish Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFFAN), through its National President, Mr Rotimi Oloye, disclosed this to The Guardian in an exclusive.
He alleged that directors in the Fishery Department are influenced by importers of frozen fish to increase quotas of fish importation.He said: “Let me tell you another happening in Nigeria that prevents policies from working. Data that we use are concocted. When the ministry tries to work out the quantity of fish we consume in Nigeria, they use 180 million people to multiply15 kilogrammes of fish eaten by an average Nigerian, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), to arrive at a number of tonnes of fish consumed locally.
“They will then work out a figure as the locally produced quantity per annum. The deficit has to be imported. They now use the deficit figure to pressurize the Federal Government to grant approval for importation of frozen fish,” he said. He accused the department of releasing fictitious figures for selfish ends, saying by his position as President of CAFFAN, nobody in the Ministry of Agriculture has ever collected production figures from him or other members, yet they release fake production figures.
“Since I have been producing fish, nobody collects any figure from me. This applies to all my members.” He added that the National Bureau of Statistics had the production figure for 2017, and he was asking them about the source of their figures but they had not got back to him.
“They use the figure to pressurize the government to approve importation of frozen fish. That is our problem. The little progress we are making in the aquaculture industry is through private initiatives.“There are many IDP camps in Nigeria and they are fed with all sort of food, including imported fish. They do not patronize locally produced fish, because the importers of fish are well established in the system,” he lamented.
However, a member of Fishery Society of Nigeria based in Ibadan, who demanded anonymity, said once there is a problem somewhere, somebody would always want to blame another person. He said: “I do local fish farming. What happens to the local farmer that does not have a big farm is that when some big farmers come into the industry, he feels threatened.”
He added that the only way fish could be cheaper in Nigeria is reduction in the cost of feeds. But the cost is going up, because the feed will take 80 to 90 per cent of the cost.Refuting CAFFAN’s claim, he said, “We used to import 1million metric tonnes of fish yearly, but last year, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Fishery Department, gave us 600,000 metric tonnes, and we did not import up to 400,000 tonnes.”
This year, he added, the ministry had given an importation quota of 450,000 tonnes, but up till now, imported fish is still less than 200,000 metric tonnes.“Every importer has reduced fish importation because cost of doing so is very high now due to the exchange rate,” he said.
Refuting the allegations, Director of Fisheries in the ministry, Mr Muazu Mohammed, admitted that the department uses the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) estimates, insisting that the national annual fish demand is 3.5 million tones yearly based on the WHO/FAO recommendation of the average per capita annual fish consumption of 18kgs .He, however, said the accusation was frivolous because the government approved only 800,000 metric tonnes for 2017, out of which only 485,000 tonnes were imported.