The National Fish Association of Nigeria (NFAN), on Sunday, in Abuja, appealed to the Federal Government to extend its intervention programmes to the fisheries sub-sector, to boost fish production in the country.
The National Publicity Secretary of the association, Chief Chidike Ukoh, who made the appeal in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said it was equally important to cut down on import bills that the country had been incurring.
Ukoh, who lamented the long period of neglect of the fisheries industry, said that the quest for government intervention was prompted by the necessity to boost fish production in order to meet domestic demand.
He urged the Federal Government to set up an inter-ministerial committee, to interface with the association, to chart a way forward in growing the industry.
“What we can do differently is for government to reason with us; we have raised many memos and we have spoken about certain things that we need to grow the industry from our level, but government needs to bring their goodwill to us.
“We are not demanding for cash to go and share; let us deploy the resources to where it can yield and be able to have good returns on investments.
“About 90 per cent of the fish industry operators, like the rural fish farmers are in the rural communities, we have the artisanal fisheries and we have the aquaculture, which is the main thing that every economy wants to develop and sustain.
“If we sustain aquaculture, which means you are farming fish in your environment, whether with water body or outside water body, but you can create that environment.
“You now begin to mass produce fish whereby, a collection of all those aggregation will give a quantum leap into what you want to meet domestic demand.
“We have the farmers and we know where they are; this is what they need and that is what we can do differently,’’ Ukoh emphasised.
Ukoh, who advocated for a special fund for small holder farmers in the fish industry, lamented huge losses, glut, and business collapse, due to the lockdown resulting from the COVID-19, pandemic.
“What is wrong with us having a grant for low level farmers, like we have interventions here and there, like the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) and the COVID-19 intervention?
“If that can be extended to fish, it will mean empowering our farmers, who will have the courage to continue to be in business and be able to aggregate the production threshold and measure what is being produced,’’ Ukoh said.
He also urged the Federal Government to speed up investigations into the fish poisoning, that affected some states within the riverine areas, in Sept. 2020, pointing out that many fish farmers were put out of production due to the poisoning.
“Our people lost their livelihood through fish poisoning that happened in Sept. last year in riverine areas like Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom. Government gave directives that they should not go to the coast line again to farm, until there is proof of what poisoned the fish.
“This means they were put out of production and there is no compensation for them to have a fall back, before government comes up with what they want to do as remediation.
“The Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development and Industry, Trade and Investments should direct the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), NISAL, Bank of Industry and Bank of Agriculture should guarantee intervention funding of the fish value chain across board.
“At least to escalate commercial production for both local demand and export market. We want government to look into what we are doing as an association, we can come up with what we call cross guarantee to the small fund given to the farmers.
“And if an association comes up with cross guarantee, it is not going to be a collateral type of loan you are getting from banks.
“If we are building on intervention fund with a low credit of 5 per cent, we will be able to understand what we have and the expectation to reach a certain production benchmark,’’ Ukoh said.