Despite import quota restriction, five countries imported mackerel fish valued at N11.7 billion in the last six months, New Telegraph has learnt.
The Federal Government had said last August that it would stop issuing fish importation quota to importers, as the venture was no longer sustainable.
According to Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Heineken Lokpobiri, stopping the trade would boost local production of fish and other aspects of agriculture in the country.
The minister had explained that Nigeria had a deficit of 2.1 million metric tons, while its national demand for fish was 3.2 million metric tons.
Also, according to Fishery Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWAGG), Nigeria’s domestic production was 1.1 million metric tons from the aquaculture, artisanal and industrial fishing sectors.
However, finding by this newspaper revealed that importation of mackerel had been on the increase regardless of government’s decision.
Between last January and June, Russia had exported N3.04 billion of mackerel, while Faroe Island ferried N2.77 billion; Ice land, N1.76 billion; Ireland, N1.76 billion; Netherlands – N1.31 billion and Mauritania N1.1 billion.
This month, three vessels arrived River Port and Lagos Port with 8,810 ton of fish valued at N4.75 billion ($13.2 million), as price of the mackerel specie had crashed to $1,500 per ton at the global market.
At the ENL Consortium terminal, Lagos Port Complex are MV Green Belje with 3,458 tons and MV Green Music, 4,000 tons.
Also moored at Rivers Port is MV Green Freezer laden with 1,352 tons of the fish.
It would be recalled that Japanese exporters crashed the price of their mackerel to enable them penetrate the Nigerian market largely dominated by Norwegian mackerel exporters last year.
It was gathered that Norwegian fish importers were selling at a loss since 2017 when Japanese exporters began selling at $500 lower than the Norwegian’s price of $1,500 per ton.
According to the Federal Department of Fisheries, importation of fish, especially the mackerels, sardinella, hake, croakers and herrings had remained an increasing phenomenon. It said that the importation was conservatively estimated at 700,000 tons.
In 2017, Norwegian exporters lamented that prices of Pacific mackerel from Japan had further pressured their prices down by a boom in imports to Nigeria.
According to Katja Nowak Nielsen, chief operating officer of Nowaco, fish demand had shifted to Pacific mackerel imported from Japan since June 2017.
She added that Norwegian exporters were looking for markets in South Korea and smaller Southeast Asian countries, where their catches could be sold.
She said: “The situation in Nigeria is problematic; because of currency rates, Atlantic mackerel is not really affordable to the average person. For now, there is a lull in sales for Norwegian mackerel. “When Norwegian firms were selling to Nigeria, Ghana and Egypt earlier in 2017, prices were roughly between $1,300 and $1,500 per ton.
“The Pacific mackerel are selling at some $500 per ton cheaper. These are smaller sizes, with a slightly lower fat content and so are generally more affordable.”