Don urges government to reduce importation of fish

fishAs the Federal Government continues, to embark on policies in addressing the nation’s economic recession, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria don and Coordinator of the Department of Fisheries, Professor Paul Ibukun-Olu Bolorunduro has cautioned against the high importation of foreign frozen fish for domestic consumption.

While urging the government to encourage mass domestic production, Bolorunduro who delivered his inaugural lecture, titled “Fisheries extension service in Nigeria: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Way Forward”, task the Government to improve the funding in fish farming in the country. The move became important to address the problem of excess importation and improve the opportunity for exportation to other countries and earn the desired foreign exchange.

He therefore adocated the establish of Agricultural Trust Fund (ATFUND) to be maintained through a percentage of revenue from tax levies on companies and organizations.According to him, “the trend in the 21st century fisheries extension service is a departure from the traditional approach in agricultural sector.

The key strength is that of innovative system that is well funded with all-inclusive participation of stakeholders and demand driven research that is appropriate to meet clienteles’ needs with visible impacts on productivity and standard of living”.

However, Bolorunduro cautioned that the purpose of the fund should be interventions in research and extension components of agriculture. “ This will go a long way in providing the necessary funds for research and extension activities in fisheries and the blue revolution for food fish self-sufficiency in Nigeria as envisaged in the recently launched Agriculture Promotion Policy of the Federal Government,” he said.

The inaugural lecture, which was chaired by the ABU Zaria, Vice Chancellor, Professor Ibrahim Garba and attended by other dignitaries was
to put search light on the fundamental objectives of extension services in the development of rural people and how fisheries and fisheries extension
potentials can be harnessed.

Bolorunduro who was the former Head of Department of the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services, (NAERLS) argued: “It is very important, and urgent, that the government put in place this fund and other economic revival strategies that will improve fisheries extension service because currently, fish constitutes about 41 per cent of the total animal protein intake by the average Nigerian.”

“This means there is great demand for fish in the country. More so, Nigeria has been having supply deficit of about 66.5 percent of fish dietary requirement of her citizens between 2010 and 2015, and this is projected to be higher at about 70 percent for 2016 based on the population estimate of about 177 million. More worrisome is that the estimated domestic fish production from aquaculture, artisanal and industrial fisheries for 2016 was 0.8million metric tons, leaving a shortfall of 1.9 million metric tons, although the aquaculture production potentials of Nigeria is about 2.5million tons per annum”.

“Nigeria’s food import bill is exceptionally high. The massive importation of frozen fish has ranked Nigeria the largest importer of this product in
Africa costing the country over N125 billion in 2015. With a viable Agricultural Trust Fund this huge sum of money could be used to invest in
fish farming. Nigeria can substitute fish importation with domestic production to create jobs and reduce poverty in rural areas”.

Professor Bolorunduro commended the present effort of the Federal Government in promoting fisheries research and innovation platform
development as embedded in the recently launched ‘Agricultural Promotion Policy’ (APP), saying that in order not to repeat the mistakes of past
regimes that could not attain the plans of self-sufficiency in fisheries production, budgetary allocation to the agriculture sector must increase
substantially.

The don noted that the 2016 budget of 1.8 percent allocation to the agriculture is a far departure from the 2003 African Union Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security (to which Nigeria is a signatory) of ‘commitment to the allocation of at least 10 percent of national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development policy implementation within five years’.

According to him, “The miracle of Rwanda agricultural transformation within a decade, is among others, the commitment of her Government to implement the Maputo Declaration. Nigeria’s Fisheries subsector can only meet the national fisheries development goals of fish food sufficiency and export promotion if the inherent problems of technology generation,development and efficient delivery can be prioritized with adequate
funding”.

Meanwhile, The objectives of the National Fisheries Policy as defined in the 2001 Agriculture Policy Document include the attainment of self-sufficiency in fish production and development; modernization of production practices, value addition to post-harvest products, promotion of export of shrimps and other high value fish products, the improvement of living conditions of fisher folks and expansion of employment opportunities in the fisheries sub-sector; the acceleration of fisheries research activities, promotion of fisheries training and encouragement of private entrepreneurs’ participation in the fisheries sub-sector.

“The summary policy or mission statement is equally available in the Vision 2020-20 Document of the Federal Government that laid emphasis on environmentally sustainable, socially equitable and economically viable fisheries sub-sector with maximization of production and product in the
direction of self- sufficiency”.

But, Bolorunduro explained that these development targets may continue to elude Nigeria if there are no better implementation strategies through
institutional and sub-sector assessment to produce sub-sector specific strategic options for fisheries development.

Besides, the University Don also traced the history of fisheries as an occupation, fisheries extension in Nigeria, past efforts by Nigeria
government to tap the economic development of the sub-sector, the achievements irrespective of notable challenges and what should be done to
develop this subsector maximally.

While admitting that there is high percentage post-harvest loss in domestic fish production leading to the massive importation of frozen
fish products in Nigeria to bridge the supply deficit, Bolorunduro pointed out that the Nigerian government is concerned about this supply
deficit.

Professor Bolorunduro further stressed that he carried out a study with his colleagues where they traced the smoked and frozen fish value chain from point of production to utilization in order to identify strategies for improving small- scale producers’ access and linkages to market.

According to him, major constraints to production by fisher-folks include costly fishing inputs, low catch per unit of efforts, exposure to high
risks in fishing grounds, deterioration of catches en-route landing sites, exploration by processors and merchants leading to low returns and high
health risks due to water borne diseases.

“Processors’ constraints include substantial post-harvest losses of fish products due to pre-processing deterioration, insect pests attack, low batch capacity and other limitations of traditional ovens, unhygienic processing environment, delay in evacuation of processed products and high
taxes imposed by local authorities”.

Professor Bolorunduro noted that most of the imported fish species – Horse Mackerel, Sardine, Croakers, Sabalo, Bream and Snapper – were from
Mauritania, Chile, Norway, USA, Japan, Argentina, Uruguay and New Zealand thereby putting much pressure on our foreign reserves. He emphasized that
with the rich fisheries resources in our territorial water and exclusive economic zone, Nigeria ought to be net exporter of fish products to other
nations and not the reverse as it is at present.

Presently in Nigeria, Professor Bolorunduro also contended, the business environment under which an aquaculture entrepreneur operates Nigeria is not conducive and this limits both fish productivity and profit. While catfish farming has gained grounds in Nigeria especially in the sub-urban
areas, fish feed was cited as the major cost component of inputs in this enterprise.

“In most cases fish farmers are said to depend on nutritionally balanced imported feeds that are costly, and at the expense of locally pelleted feeds that are of lower quality. Due to the present economic recession in Nigeria, and tight monetary policy of the Federal Government, prices of imported feeds sky rocketed by about 70% between 2015 and 2016”.

“This development has made many fish farmers to ‘suspend’ operation.However, there is excellent opportunity to reduce the fish feed cost
especially with the availability of local protein sources in Nigeria”. The input costs for a commercial catfish farms in 2015, according to a
study conducted by Bolorunduro, feed cost alone was responsible for about 60% of the production cost. This he considered high with the consequence
of causing more hardships to fish farmers in terms of the enterprise profitability.

Besides, he said: “The major overriding environmental threat to the inland fisheries is the reduction in the volume of water coming through flood
plains and rivers as a result of diversion of water upstream for irrigation, and the control of discharge volume of the water bodies by
damming”.



1 Comment
  • William Norris

    The best way to reduce the importation of fish – and most other things – is to float the naira.

    In the present circumstances the naira will most likely lose value if it’s floated. Imported fish and toothpicks and cars will become very expensive and the populace will respond by buying less AND seeking local alternatives. Nigerian farmers will likely respond by producing more fish….and other businesses will produce more toothpicks and cars.

    All the other measures – especially government intervention in the market – will not accomplish much. Nigerians have a human right to buy whatever they want as long as they can afford it.

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