The Managing Director, Vessa Fisheries, Lagos, Mrs. Vero Igbe, has commended the new Federal Government policy on fisheries that ensures that all supplies are in tandem with specific quota assigned to individual firms.
She said before the introduction of the new policy that the big foreign players made life difficult for the local players because they had superior economic advantage over them.
Speaking on the situation before the tide turned for the indigenous fish firms during a media interaction, Igbe said, “Before now, we were at the mercy of the foreign companies.
“They would go to the firms abroad and buy almost every fish stock meant for Nigeria and bring them into the country.
“If any local dealer goes to the source to buy, those people would ask them to return to their agents in Nigeria. So it was a cartel that could not be broken.”
She said it was particularly difficult for the local firms because most of them were struggling to stay in business because the big foreign firms had put in place structures that ensured that they were perpetually under their control.
“They (foreign fish companies were getting not less than 70 per cent of all the fish that were imported into Nigeria. There was nothing like quota at that time.
“The worse aspect was that they set up cold rooms that would feed other smaller ones that they had set up close to our markets. So they were also retailing,” she said.
Igbe also revealed some of the unscrupulous dealings of the foreign fish firms in the past, including gimmicks that perpetually enslaved local dealers that depended on them for their retail supplies.
She said: “Back then, these foreign companies would raise the prices of fish so high, and because they were the only ones supplying most of the fishes consumed in Nigeria, the smaller cold room operators are forced to buy from them at that rate.
“But once they sell out to these people, they crash the prices using their own retail structures. So the Nigerian dealers are forced to operate at loss and are unable to pay back because most of them take supplies on credits that they are far less capable of paying.
“This situation forces so many people to take bank loans, which still don’t help them and; often, the foreign companies end up taking over their cold rooms.”
The consequence, as disclosed by the Vessa Fisheries MD, is preponderant cases of large cold rooms, stocked with old and expired fishes that flooded Nigerian markets until recently that the Minister of Agriculture, Akinwumi Adesina, led a personal hunt for bad fish stock piles.